The WNBA Finals are going to be killer.
The Mystics, led by Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, take on the No. 1 seed Seattle Storm led by Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart Friday night, with the Storm a surprising five-point favorite in Game 1.
A look at the key elements in Mystics at Storm (-5).
LOOK OUT FOR LLOYD
Jewell Lloyd is having a rough time in the playoffs. Per Synergy Sports, the Storm’s third weapon is 8-of-28 out of the pick and roll this postseason. That’s got to improve. Seattle needs to make this an up-and-down offensive series vs. the Mystics, who sport the No. 1 defense per 100 possessions in the playoffs.
If Lloyd gets loose, Seattle’s offense is such a juggernaut that the Storm can outpace the Mystics, but if Lloyd struggles, this becomes more of an up-tempo slog — where the Mystics want it.
UP, UP AND AWAY
Speaking of tempo, these are the No. 2 vs. No. 3 teams in pace in the playoffs. The Mystics were much slower in the regular season but have picked it up.
The over/under now sits at 170, and considering how up and down this could be, I lean over, but the under is 3-3 with the Mystics.
That is because the Mystics are awesome at transition defense, which could be huge considering how good Seattle is there. The Mystics are just so good at challenging the ball while keeping space and making things difficult. And at the same time, if you overextend, they pounce on you.
So the key is going to be whether the Storm can break this. They’re so good at finding gaps and knocking down spot-up shots, but this is what much of the series will be about.
Delle Donne is on a bad wheel. She’s got a knee bruise that cost her Game 4 vs. the Dream and limited her in Game 5. More concerning is this:
The Mystics were dead last in post defense this season, allowing 59% shooting. In the playoffs, they’ve been just as bad, giving up 28 points on 23 shots.
Guess who’s waiting in Seattle?
The MVP is a tough matchup for anyone in the league, but the Mystics seem specifically challenged against her.
Per Synergy Sports, Stewart scored just 29 points on 48 possessions for a horrifically bad 0.604 points per possession mark against the Mystics this season. In the post, she scored 12 points on 10 possessions, much better overall, but it would take a huge diet of those possessions to compensate. The Mystics are going to target her like this:
The Mystics are 3-0 as a 4-point dog or more the past three seasons in the playoffs; the Storm are 1-2 as a 4-point favorite or more. This line is just too high considering how good Washington has been. The bone bruise for EDD makes me nervous and means I like the Storm on the moneyline, but I like the Mystics plus-5. Get ready for a great series.