WNBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference – No. 1 Seed San Antonio Silver Stars vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Sparks
Posted by Dan on September 26, 2008
WNBA Playoff Preview
No. 1 Seed San Antonio Silver Stars vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Sparks
Season Series: Tied 2-2
In Los Angeles: Sparks Lead 2-0
In San Antonio: Silver Starts Lead 2-0
Last Meeting: September 5, San Antonio Won 75-58 in San Antonio
Thursday, September 25 @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. TV: NBA-TV
Saturday, September 27 @ San Antonio, 3 p.m. TV: NBA TV
If Necessary Sunday, September 28, @ San Antonio, 5 p.m. TV: ESPN2
This Season Series:
During the four meetings this year between the two teams, the home team prevailed in all four. In each instance, one of the games was close and the other was virtually a blow out. The Sparks are averaging 66.5 points per game in either venue so where the difference has been is with the Silver Stars. San Antonio averaged 76.5 ppg. at home against Los Angeles, but only scored 57.7 ppg in the Staples Center. If the last two games are any indications, the Sparks may have a tough time scoring points against the Silver Stars regardless of the location the game as they managed just 58 points in each contests.
About the Silver Stars:
The number two defensive team in the WNBA during the regular season, the Silver Stars have gone away from the formula that got them the league’s best record during the playoffs. In the regular season San Antonio gave up only 71.1 points per game, which ranked less than half a point behind the league leader Seattle. During the playoffs the Silver Stars are giving up a tad under 10 points more per game as Sacramento scored an average of 81.0 ppg. during the opening series. This wouldn’t be an alarming fact except that the Monarchs rated ninth out of 12 teams in scoring offense. To make up for the lack of defense, San Antonio has countered with more offense as it has scored 79.3 ppg, which is more than five points above its regular season average.
San Antonio had the best record during the regular season, 24-10, thanks to a five-game winning streak to end the year. This is the Silver Stars second-straight trip to the conference finals and the only second appearance since the franchise moves to San Antonio from Utah. While in Utah the team only made two playoff appearances (2001-02) with a conference final berth that last year.
About the Sparks:
Similar to its opponent, the Sparks are giving up more points in the playoffs than they are scoring. The difference is Los Angeles is playing much better defense than it did during the regular season. The Sparks were right in the middle of the league at 74.21 ppg. on defense, but during their first playoff series they held Seattle to 65.6 ppg. However, the number four scoring team at 76.4 ppg, LA has been 12 points below that number in the playoffs. The main culprit for this is a 50-point outing in game two.
Through all the teams that have come in gone in the Western Conference, Los Angeles is the one team that has been in the hunt nearly every year. The Sparks have been in nine of the last 10 WNBA Playoffs with last year’s no-show breaking a streak of eight-consecutive playoff appearances. Los Angeles won back-to-back titles in 2001-02 and played for it all again in 2003.
The Match Up
Much like it was for Los Angeles in the opening round of the playoffs, the Western Conference finals will come down to whether its front court, led by super rookie Candace Parker and WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Lisa Leslie, can carry the team. The Sparks have no true point guard, coach Michael Cooper has gone with point guard by committee, and this will a tough task as once again they face a tough back court match up with the Siler Stars, led by four-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon. The Sparks advantage inside should be very prevalent when it comes to rebounding. Los Angeles led the league at 37.7 rebounds per game during the regular season while San Antonio was next to last at 32.1. Both teams’ rebounding production as dipped during the playoffs, but Los Angeles still has a big advantage at 32-to-24.
Players To Watch:
All eyes will be focused on Los Angeles’ star power in the middle with Parker and Leslie. After scoring only 21 points in the first two playoff games of her career, Parker had 20 to help LA eliminate Seattle. Leslie continues to show why she is one of the best players to ever play the game, averaging 12 points and 9.6 rebounds per game including a pair of double doubles. Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 11 points in each of the first two games with the Storm, but disappeared in game three. Guards Kara Brown and Maria Ferdinand-Harris played well in game one at home, but were no where to be found on the road. They’ll need to step up their production if LA is to advances.
Just as all great players do, Becky Hammon has stepped up her play in the playoffs. She is averaging a playoff-best 19.3 ppg. Right behind her is forward Sophia Young at 19.0 ppg., including a 27-point outing in game three against Sacramento. Her offense may suffer as she’ll have a tough assignment in the post against Parker and Leslie, but given the strength of San Antonio’s back court they might not need her scoring. San Antonio has relied heavily on its starters with the opening five averaging 67.3 of its 79.3 ppg. This could become a big factor of the Silver Stars get into foul trouble.
When a good defensive team doesn’t play defense you’ve got a problem. It would be one thing if San Antonio was facing the best offense in the league, but it wasn’t. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is playing great defense right now. They were also able to go and win on Seattle’s home court against the best defensive team in the league and the Storm had the best record in the league at home. Parker is over her opening playoffs jitters and I see her leading this team into the finals. Los Angeles in three.