- East teams favored to be beast in the opening games of the WNBA semifinals
- Washington Mystics the favorite to defeat the Las Vegas Aces
- The Connecticut Sun are the chalk against the Los Angeles Sparks
Are the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun on a collision course?
The WNBA semi-finals get underway on Tuesday, and odds predict the opening acts in both sets going the way of the Eastern teams.
The Mystics, the chalk in the WNBA Championship odds, are favored to begin the best-of-five set with a win over the Las Vegas Aces. Meanwhile, the Sun are listed as the chalk to topple the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 1 of the other semi-final set.
Los Angeles Sparks vs Connecticut Sun Odds
|Los Angeles Sparks||+115||+2.5 (-110)||Over 161.5 (-115)|
|Connecticut Sun||-150||-2.5 (-110)||Under 161.5 (-110)|
*Odds taken 09/17/19.
The Sparks most recently lost in the WNBA finals in 2017. LA were league champions in 2016, the third championship in franchise history.
The Sun have never won a WNBA title. They lost back-to-back finals in 2004 and 2005.
Los Angeles won two of three regular-season meetings. The home team won all three games during the season.
These two teams have never previously met in the WNBA playoffs.
Front Court Battle
Both of these teams rely on their dominant front court play to find success. LA deepened its size up front, and it could get personal against the Sun. Prior to the season, the Sparks acquired Chiney Ogwumike from Connecticut as she joined her sister Nneka in LA. Together with Candace Parker, they’ve formed a powerful rotation up front.
The Ogwumike sisters combined for 39 points when LA beat the Sun 77-70 on May 31. They were good for 40 points in an 89-77 loss at Connecticut on June 6. Nneka (18.7 points per game) and Chiney (14.7 ppg) were LA’s top scorers against the Sun this season. Nneka also pulled down a team-high 11 boards per game against Connecticut.
For Connecticut, power in the paint is also vital. The Sun set a franchise record this season, netting 58 points in the paint during an 89-70 win over the reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm.
Jonquel Jones, who moved in as a starter after Ogwumike was traded, is dominant on the boards at both ends of the court. She scored at least 16 points in all three games against LA this season.
She forms a terrific tandem with Alyssa Thomas. Both Jones (First Team) and Thomas (Second Team) were WNBA All-Defensive Team selections this season.
The Sun Won’t Go Down
The Sun were a three-seed the last two seasons and were knocked out in Round 2. Getting a #2 seeding this year made a huge difference for them, because it gives the Sun home-court advantage.
Connecticut (15-2) set a franchise record and tied for the league lead in home victories. The Sparks were a disappointing 7-10 on the road.
There’s so little to choose between these two teams. LA’s point differential was 3.40, while for Washington it was 2.88.
Both are dominant home teams, and that’s what will carry the day for the Sun in the opener.
Pick: Connecticut Sun (-150).
Las Vegas Aces vs Washington Mystics Odds
|Las Vegas Aces||+325||+9.0 (-110)||Over 172.5 (-110)|
|Washington Mystics||-450||-9.0 (-110)||Under 172.5 (-110)|
*Odds taken 09/17/19.
Three words that will haunt Las Vegas and keep the Aces from coming up aces in this series – Elena Delle Donne.
Washington’s star and the likely WNBA MVP is a dominant presence. She finished the regular season with shooting splits of 51.5 percent from the field, 43.0 percent from 3-point range and 97.4 percent from the free-throw line.
The 2015 WNBA MVP, Delle Donne became the first player in WNBA history to finish a season with a 50/40/90 split. She’s just the ninth player to ever do so in pro basketball history, joining Larry Bird, Malcolm Brogdon, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Price.
Delle Donne’s free-throw percentage is a WNBA record. She’s hit 61 free throws in a row. Her last miss was on August 8th.
Offense vs Defense
It’s the old story about the unstoppable force clashing with the immovable object. The Mystics finished the season as the WNBA’s #1 offense, posting an offensive rating of 112.9. The Aces were the league’s top defensive squad. They posted a defensive rating of 95.
In 26 wins this season, the Mystics averaged a league-best winning margin of 19.5 points per game. They posted a 43-point victory over Connecticut, the fourth-widest margin in WNBA history.
The Aces were the WNBA’s worst defensive team a year ago. But coach Bill Laimbeer, who knows a thing or two about playing shutdown defense from his time with the Detroit “Bad Boy” Pistons NBA championship squads, revamped his roster and instituted a defense-first culture.
Mystics Too Much To Handle
Two numbers jump off the page when comparing the stats of the Aces and Mystics. Washington outscored Las Vegas by more than six points a game.
The Mystics also showed a point differential that was in excess of seven points wider than the Aces.
While Las Vegas was the #1 team in defensive rating in the WNBA, Washington actually allowed fewer points per game – 77.48 to 78.49.
In two games played at Washington this season, the Mystics defeated the Aces by an average margin of 21 points per game.
Pick: Washington Mystics [-450, -9 (-110)].
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