This might sound familiar.
On Sunday afternoon, League MVP Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as the Minnesota Lynx sent the Washington Mystics packing. Later, and across the country, Candace Parker drove through the lane to clinch the game-winning shot and with it the series against the Phoenix Mercury. And – as the league seemed to be hurtling toward all season – the Lynx and Sparks are set for a rematch of the 2016 Finals.
Not that it was an easy run to the final for either team: the Lynx had to battle against a Mystics team that made runs until late in the fourth quarter, but could just never seem to get over the mountain set by Minnesota’s defense. And the Lynx kept pushing back.
“They just have so many pieces to the puzzle and they can exhaust you,” Mystics star Elena Delle Donne told For The Win after her team’s loss. “They get one person going and then another steps up and then another knocks down a crucial shot. So it’s just tough when teams have that many heads to the snake … they just keep coming at you over and over again.”
In the Los Angeles-Phoenix series, Diana Taurasi tied the game with a 3 with less than 11 seconds to go in the game and Brittney Griner had a chance to tie again as the clock expired. But they couldn’t get past a Los Angeles team that is looking to defend its title. “Look, they’re defending champs for a reason,” Taurasi told reporters after the game. “They make you pay anytime you make a mistake. That’s the quality of players they have on that team right now.”
Despite whatever struggles they may have had in the semi-finals, the Lynx and Sparks have played a step above the rest of the league throughout the season. The Sparks dropped only eight games in the regular season and the Lynx seven. By comparison, the third-place team, the Liberty, finished with 12 losses at the end of the season. Both swept their semifinal opponents. Their defenses forced, on average, their opponents to nearly an even assist-to-turnover ratio (1.06 for the Lynx, 1.05 for the Sparks). And they each beat opponents, on average, by double digits.
“The luxury of our team is we can go to anyone at any…