The Minnesota Lynx met their 1st goal for 2013, clinching home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Considering the Lynx are 15-2 at home and 11-6 on the road--and considering the L.A. Sparks are also 15-2 at home and just 9-8 on the road, and considering that Chicago is 14-3 and 10-7--home court advantage is not window dressing.
A reasonable conclusion, without getting into the number crunching too deeply, is that the home court advantage at least doubles the Lynx' likelihood of winning their 2nd WNBA title in 3 years. They can do it without ever winning a road game.
And they finished strong, winning 8 of their last 9, including 7 in a row before a 1-point loss at L.A. and a finishing 79-66 homecourt win over the East Division champion Chicago Sky.
At the beginning of the season I said that the Lynx' chances of winning the WNBA title would ride with Maya Moore, now in her 3rd year and ready now to play like a WNBA MVP. And, indeed, she's done that. She is now listed on the WNBA Web site as 1 of 5 MVP candidates--along with Elena Delle Donna of Chicago, Angel McCoughtrey of Atlanta, Candace Parker of L.A. and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix.
Moore increased her scoring by 2 points per game to more than 18, 3rd best in the league, mostly by virtue of her deadly 3-point shooting. She leads the league, making 50 percent of her attempts. She is now perceived as being the Lynx' best player, a perception that last year at this time leaned toward Seimone Augustus. Moore has been player of the week several times, and her 35 points against Indiana are the most by any WNBA player this year.
But, somebody is quoted on the WNBA Web site saying that Maya is now the "focal point" of the Lynx, and this perception is somewhat flawed. Moore played every game for the Lynx while Augustus missed 3 games with injury. On a per game basis, Augustus took just as many shots as Moore did, and Augustus shot .516 to Moore's .509. The difference, of course, is those 3s. But Seimone's scoring average is the same as a year ago, surprisingly.
There's also been no slippage in Lindsey Whalen's game, which I had erroneously predicted. I mean, she's 31 years old. But her scoring average increased more than Moore's, from 11+ to 14+. Her shooting percentage dropped from 50 to 48 percent, but her assists increased from 5.4 to 5.8.
Put it all together and the Lynx look a bit tougher than a year ago, which is a good thing because a year ago they weren't quite tough enough.
First Round Match-Ups
Minnesota 26-8 vs. Seatttle 17-17
Seattle might have a very slight advantage inside with Tina Thompson but, seriously, that would be very slight and Minnesota has the advantageLynx sweep. at the other 4 positions. That's why the Lynx swept the season series 4-0 by an average of 79-62.
L.A. 24-10 vs. Phoenix 19-15
We keep waiting for some kind of explosion from Phoenix, but it hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile L.A. boasts one of he WNBA's top talents in Candace Parker and a solid supporting cast. Of course, Phoenix boasts one of the WNBA's top talents in Diana Taurasi, but the supporting cast is not quite as ready for the playoffs. L.A. in 3.
Chicago 24-10 vs. Indiana 16-18
This could be interesting. Indiana cranking it up a notch at playoff time a year ago to win a surprising WNBA title. Chicago presents a formidable obstacle, but is Elene Delle Donna 100 percent? She suffered a concussion late in the year and was subpar vs. Minnesota in the regular season finale. Indiana in 3.
Atlanta 17-17 vs. Washington 17-17
Angel McCoughtrey should be the difference here. Atlanta in 3.