Round 1 Western Conference Playoffs
Game 1 Seattle @ Houston - Tues. Aug. 30 6:30PM PDT - ESPN2
Game 1 Sacramento @ LA - Wed. Aug. 31 7:30PM PDT - NBATV
Game 2 Houston @ Seattle - Thurs. Sept. 1 7:00PM PDT - NBATV
Game 2 LA @ Sacramento - Fri. Sept. 2 7:00PM PDT - NBATV
Game 3 Houston @ Seattle - Saturday, Sept. 3 7:00PM PDT - NBATV
Game 3 LA @ Sacramento - Sunday, Sept. 4 6:00PM PDT - NBATV
I expect these series to be a pair of roller coasters, both home and away.
Sparks vs. Monarchs
Nikki Teasley made the playoff roster but is not likely to be available for a first round series. Kara Lawson and DeMya Walker also made the playoff roster, but only Kara Lawson is expected to be available for the first round series. Guard play will be the key here. Both teams have strong post offense and defense, but Sacramento's vaunted perimeter defense will be the key to keeping LA from returning the underdog Round 1 elimination favor that Sacramento did for them last year. LA is guard weak with Teasley out and is averaging only 68.41 points per game this year and a mere 64.8 over the last ten games of the season. They failed to lock up their playoff position on their own, relying on Seattle to secure it for them. LA's post tandem of Chamique Holdsclaw and The DIVA Herself is a dangerous blend of offense and defense. Leslie, as much as she grates Seattle fans, is a solid post defender and rebounder, and brings championship experience and desire to the game. Yolanda Griffith however is showing that she can still dominate the post, and is by far the best rebounder in the game with her long arms. Brunson will be overmatched against Holdsclaw, and will have little help from the bench. Nicole Powell will be the key on offense with the guards setting the tone on defense. LA has a great opportunity to steal this series, but I predict the Monarchs take it in two games, a close match i Game 1 followed by a blowout victory at home in Sacramento.
Storm vs. Comets
There is a good reason why this game is on ESPN2. Both teams offer superstar lineups and bring scoring potential to the table.
The Storm have the highest scoring offense in the league this year, however they have allowed the most points of any team in the league as well. The good news is that their defense has stepped up at the end of the season.
|Season||Last 10||Last 5|
They have kept their offense flowing and pushed their defense up a notch as they have neared the postseason. Others have said this, and I agree. While other teams have peaked at various times during the season, the Storm are just starting to peak right now. Their +11.40 differential is the best in the league over the last 5 games with only the Sun coming close at +9.
The Comets have improved on their season numbers as well, but not to the same extent.
|Season||Last 10||Last 5|
The fact that the Storm differential is so high over the last 5 games is even more impressive when you look at their competition over that period. They played the Monarchs twice in that period, and the Monarchs lead the league in point differential for the season. Two of the other three teams were playoff bubble teams that were eliminated from the post season by their losses to Seattle. Only the San Antonio game was expected to have the high differential. The team with the best differential has one every WNBA championship, but I say that the Storm's season differential of 2.68 is misleading since they were still gelling early in the season, adding two starters and finding their key bench players. Those questions were all answered by the time they entered the home stretch, and the Storm have dominated since then. Also impressive is that the team leading scorer was only the leading scorer in 2 of those 5 games. LJ led in the first 2 games against Minnesota and Sacramento and Betty, Tanisha, JB and Sue leading the rest of the way.
I predict that the Storm take this series in 2 games, both closely contested and down to the wire with the Storm holding on for the wins. They have struggled in Houston, but their confidence is so high right now I think they will come out strong and break Houston's confidence early.