2023 Wnba Playoffs: Connecticut Sun Vs. Minnesota Lynx First-Round Preview, Schedule, and Match Report
The Minnesota Lynx kept their season alive on Sunday with an 82-75 win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of their first-round series. Kayla McBride hit six 3-pointers en route to a playoff career-high 28 points, while Napheesa Collier battled through a sore back to put up 26 points and 13 rebounds. Now, the series will shift to Minnesota for a deciding Game 3 on Wednesday.
After losing in the Finals last season, the Sun traded Jonquel Jones to the New York Liberty and hired a new head coach in Stephanie White. Then, a month into the season, Brionna Jones tore her Achilles tendon. But despite all of the setbacks and uncertainty, they were right back at the top of the standings, winning a franchise-record 27 games and earning the No. 3 seed thanks almost solely to Alyssa Thomas.
As for the Lynx, they made history by bouncing back from a terrible start to become the second team ever to make the playoffs after opening the season 0-6. However, they will have their work cut out for them as they try to win their first playoff series since 2017 (they won a one-game round in 2020 when the league still had single-elimination rounds).
Here’s everything you need to know:
(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Minnesota Lynx
Game 1: Sun 90, Lynx 60 (Sun lead 1-0)
Game 2: Lynx 82, Sun 75 (Series tied 1-1)
Game 3: Sun at Lynx
Date: Wednesday, Sept. 20 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV channel: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
Odds: Not yet released
Players to watch
Sun: Alyssa Thomas
Perhaps no player in the league means quite as much to their team as Thomas, who put together a historic and unique season as she became the triple-double queen and single-handedly led the Sun to the No. 3 seed. When she was on the floor this season, the Sun had a plus-7.5 net rating; when she sat, it plummeted to minus-22.7.
Lynx: Napheesa Collier
Collier is another of the league’s brightest stars, and like Thomas will receive MVP votes and should appear on both All-WNBA and All-Defensive teams. While her on/off splits aren’t as staggering as Thomas’s — no one’s are, to be fair — Collier is vital to the Lynx’s success, and their hopes of pulling an upset rest on her shoulders.
Three keys to the series
The Sun had the second-best defensive rating in the league this season, allowing just 98.8 points per 100 possessions. A major reason for their success on that side of the ball is they forced an incredible amount of turnovers with their pressure and physicality. Their opponent turnover rate was 19.8%, and it’s hard for any team to score when they’re not even getting a shot up on one out of every five possessions.
While that’s an issue for any team, it’s an especially glaring concern for the Lynx, who have the second-worst turnover rate of all the playoff teams at 17.7%. They have trouble taking care of the ball all season long and allowed 16.7 points off turnovers per game, which ranked 11th in the league. The Sun, on the other hand, feast on the situations. Their 18.5 points off turnovers per game led the league and were a crucial part of their offense.
If the Lynx wants to pull off an upset, it starts with taking care of the ball. Not only will that give them more opportunities to score, but it will keep the Sun out of transition and limit their easy baskets.
Thomas loves playing the Lynx
Alyssa Thomas put up incredible numbers this season, the likes of which we’ve never seen: 15.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 47.4% shooting. She registered six triple-doubles this season, to set the new single-season record, and now has eight for her career, which is the all-time mark.
While she did damage against every team, she was particularly fond of playing the Lynx. That was the opponent when she recorded her historic 20-point, 20-rebound, 12-assist outing on Aug. 1 — the first 20/20/10 game in WNBA history — and she had another triple-double against them on July 30. Over four games against the Lynx, she averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 10.3 assists.