|WNBA"s top two teams meet again in finals|
This is the way it should be.
The two best teams, littered with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. The teams that battled to the final seconds of Game 5 in last year's finals. The two iconic franchises that have been so instrumental in helping the WNBA grow.
Yeah, it's only right that the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx face off for the 2017 WNBA championship.
There's talk of redemption and there are whispers of dynasty.
It's the matchup most everyone wants to see and now the wait is almost over. Game 1 tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles, which won the title in the final seconds of the decisive Game 5 last season, will try to repeat as WNBA champions, something that has happened only three times in the league's 20-year history.
"I never take this for granted," Sparks forward Candace Parker told swishappeal.com. "I think in my career I've learned that when opportunities present themselves, you take full advantage of it because it's not promised. ... We haven't reached our ultimate goal, but we're on our way. You can't win a championship without getting to the WNBA Finals."
Minnesota is gunning for its fourth title in seven years and no one has to remind Maya Moore and the Lynx that nothing is promised.
A year ago, the Lynx were seconds from claiming another title. Then Nneka Ogwumike's fadeaway jumper fell through the net and the Sparks were celebrating -- on Minnesota's court.
As the Lynx marched to the league's best record (27-7) and as they swept the Washington Mystics to land a berth in the finals, they never talked about redemption and revenge. They didn't need to. The Lynx know they just need to take care of business.
"I think about how in the heck I'm gonna get these guys ready to win Game 1," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters recently. "I'm thinking about every little detail. Frankly, I don't even think about winning a championship. If you think about that, you're getting ahead of things, and that's not what your focus should be."
Individual matchups in this series are reminiscent of the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers battles of the 1980s.
The Lynx are loaded, with this year's MVP Sylvia Fowles and five-time All-Star and three-time WNBA champion Moore leading the way.
Playmaker Lindsay Whalen is also a five-time All-Star and three-time WNBA champ. She's recovered from a midseason hand injury and is the cog that makes the Lynx offense hum.
Seimone Augustus is a seven-time All-Star who once was called the next Michael Jordan.
Reeve expects that the added year of experience will help Fowles and that it could be the difference this year.
"Syl was involved last year, but she just didn't handle some of the stuff that was happening to her," Reeve said. "We were reluctant to put her in tough situations facing a double team. Now we're fully confident. She's seen a lot. She understands how to handle multiple defensive scenarios. She's much more equipped. She's much more patient. She's a better finisher this year."
Parker has been the most dominant player during the playoffs for a team that finished with the second-best record (26-8).
In addition to Parker, who sprained an ankle during warmups against the Mystics in Game 1 of their series, the Sparks have their own illustrious and decorated lineup.
Ogwumike was the 2016 MVP, and at age 27 already has been an All-Star four times.
Alana Beard, for the first time in her 12-year career, was named Defensive Player of the Year.
And Chelsea Gray has enjoyed a breakout season, earning her first berth in the All-Star Game.
"I think we do bring out the best in each other because I think both teams are filled with great competitors," Sparks coach Brian Agler told reporters. "And great competitors really relish these moments."
Parker, along with Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender, will have the unenviable job of trying to stop Fowles.
Defense could determine who wins the series, and the Lynx and Sparks have had the top two defenses.
The teams met three times this year with the Sparks winning two of three.
Agler's philosophy is simple.
"You just have to be ready for the moment and step up," he told swishappeal.com. "But I also want our team to enjoy the experience. When you do it with joy and relish the moment, you have a tendency to do your best. And that's what we're looking to do."