Everyone loves the narrative.
The WNBA isn’t absent of them, so ahead of the semifinals here are the storylines to watch when the two best-of-five series tip off on Sunday.
The No. 1 Las Vegas Aces will play the No. 7 Connecticut Sun; neither team has won a WNBA title. The No. 2 Seattle Storm get the No. 4 Minnesota Lynx. They have a combined seven titles. Seattle has three and last won in 2018. Minnesota has four from 2011 to 2017.
When are the WNBA semifinals? What channel?
All times are Eastern. The full list of postseason dates is here, though it may change with the Game 1 postponement.
Connecticut 87, Las Vegas 62 | Sun lead series, 1-0
Minnesota at Seattle | Postponed due to inconclusive COVID-19 tests
Seattle 88, Minnesota 86 | Storm lead series, 1-0
Las Vegas 83, Connecticut 75 | Series tied, 1-1
Minnesota at Seattle | 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Las Vegas at Connecticut | 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Las Vegas at Connecticut, Game 4 | 1 p.m. on ESPN
Seattle at Minnesota, Game 3 | 3 p.m. on ABC
Tuesday, Sept. 29 | ESPN2, 7 p.m. and/or 9 p.m.
Connecticut at Las Vegas, Game 5*
Seattle at Minnesota, Game 4*
Aces vs. Sun quick head-to-head
The Aces won both regular season match-ups by at least 15 points (99-78 on Aug. 20, 93-78 Sept. 3). League MVP A’ja Wilson scored 21 points and 24, respectively, in a consistent season. Potential Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby had 20 and 15, respectively.
The Aces shot a combined 54 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range, slightly better than their season averages.
The Storm won both games against the Lynx also by large margins. They kept the Lynx to a season-low in points with a 90-66 win in the second game of the season. When they met earlier this month the Storm pulled away in the third for a 103-88 win.
Stewart scored 18 points in each game with five rebounds in the first and 10 in the second. Forward Damiris Dantas led the Lynx in both games, even with Sylvia Fowles in the lineup in July. She had 18 points and seven rebounds in the first game and 22 points, nine rebounds in the second.
Will rest win out, or is rust an issue?
It was a topic ahead of the first round and it remains a topic going into the semifinals, where the Aces and Storm will play for the first time in a week. A week in normal times isn’t much. But a week in wubble time is an eternity since teams have been playing, on average, every other day for the past seven weeks.
The Phoenix Mercury started out slow against the Washington Mystics, only to claw back in the fourth with a 17-0 run and a Shey Peddy buzzer-beater. The Chicago Sky were also off their game — although they had struggled down the stretch — and both the Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks started a little disjointed on Thursday night.
Those situations were more to do with missing personnel and getting certain players back. But the Storm are also in that boat. Will there be some rust to shake off? And will it ultimately matter for two teams that have dominated the wubble environment all season?
Health: Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Sylvia Fowles
Health is a major concern for every player. But there’s a few to keep your eye on especially as the series continues.
Seattle: Point guard Sue Bird missed half of the 22-game season due to a bone bruise in the knee she had surgery on last year and then a late-season collision. Stewart was a surprise scratch in those last two games and explained later it was an issue with scar tissue in her left foot and lower leg.
The 2018 MVP who finished second in this year’s voting for the award said she intends to play as does Bird. Stewart leads the team in minutes (30.4 PG), points (19.7), rebounds (8.3) and is second in assists (3.6).
Minnesota: Center Sylvia Fowles made her return in the second round and was understandably rusty. She missed five weeks due to a calf strain and the Lynx will need to re-find their rhythm with Fowles in the lineup. Fowles played 18:06 minutes, went 2 for 8 from the floor and looked visibly frustrated at times on the bench.
Cheryl Reeve, named coach of the year, recognized everything going against Fowles: coming back in a single-elimination game, timing, rust, Mercury’s defensive power in the post. She said in the postgame interview she’s “hopeful that we get a chance to see her again.”
Also notable for the Lynx is that two of the three assistant coaches left the wubble this week, the Star-Tribune reported. Plenette Pierson returned home due to a death in the family and Rebekkah Brunson left as planned to get home to her family and business. It leaves Reeve and Katie Smith, though the departed assistants will continue to support remotely.
Connecticut: Alyssa Thomas, who still has two torn labrums, has been dealing with a hand injury and Jasmine Thomas is playing through plantar fasciitis. Briann January has a dislocated finger.
Connecticut Sun still thriving on disrespeCT
The Sun played off of being called a bunch of “role players” to reach the 2019 WNBA Finals. The #disrespeCT moniker is now back after DeWanna Bonner — an offseason signing who was not in town last autumn — told ESPN’s Holly Rowe immediately after the win “nobody counted us to win this game.”
They put in two solid victories against the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury, who got 28 points and nine assists from superstar Diana Taurasi, to get here. And that’s after starting the season 0-5.
Maybe the five-game winless streak was the fuel the Sun needed.
“No one is going to pick us to win. We’re going to use that disrespect. We’re going to use that chip,” coach Curt Miller said in a video call after beating the Sparks. “Our players felt like no one thought out there that we could beat L.A. And we’re going to use it. Even if it’s not happening, we’re definitely going to use the disrespect card and believe we are truly the underdogs going into this series.”
And then there’s Alyssa Thomas.
“We love when people doubt us, but as you can see (after Thursday), we mean business,” Thomas said. “And, you know, we’re a scary team to play in the playoffs and we’re just ready to play Vegas.”
They rode it to within minutes of a title last year (unless you’re asking Kristi Toliver). Don’t think they can’t do it again.
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