The past two WNBA Finals have proved that it’s basically impossible for the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks to play a basketball game with an unexciting ending. Last year’s Finals came down to the closing 30 seconds of a winner-take-all Game 5: First Candace Parker made a go-ahead shot, then Maya Moore answered with a jumper, and then Nneka Ogwumike won the Sparks the championship with three seconds to go:
Game 1 of this year’s series ended the same way: Moore hit a layup in transition with six seconds to go, and Chelsea Gray drilled a step-back with three seconds to go to seal the game for Los Angeles.
Game 1 of last year’s series ended on an Alana Beard game winner. Game 2 of this year’s series featured an ending that was almost entirely chaos. All in all, the past 12 games between these two teams have been perfectly even: 908 points for the Sparks, 908 for the Lynx. Once again, they have reached a Game 5: one game for the league championship. They probably should play a few dozen more games, but something awesome will happen because it has to come down to one.
The Lynx are a dynasty, with three championships in the past six years. The Sparks won last year, and are hoping to become the first team to repeat since doing it in 2001 and 2002. Both teams have two MVPs: The Lynx have Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles, the big who won the award this year. The Sparks have Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, the big who won the award last year.
We must thank the WNBA’s playoff format for this: The league used to pit two conference champions against each other, but the past two seasons the league has switched to a playoff system that seeds all the league’s teams regardless of conference. That allowed the two best teams in the league to face off: the Lynx went 27-7, the Sparks went 26-8; nobody else finished better than 22-12. Both teams swept their semifinals 3-0, with only one of the six games decided by fewer than 10 points. This is the cream of the crop; the only matchup worth existing. And it has not disappointed.
Men like to come up with excuses not to watch women’s sports. Take UConn, the team that won so often and by so much that some argued the team’s brilliance was bad for the sport. Well, if competitive imbalance was all that was keeping you away from women’s basketball, Wednesday night’s game features the two best teams in the world in this sport, who happen to be preposterously equally matched. You’re out of excuses to avoid watching great basketball.