Why the Sparks and Lynx won't meet in the WNBA Finals again


The Lynx versus the Sparks has been the rivalry of the WNBA the past two seasons. Between the regular season and the playoffs, they've met 16 times, with each team winning eight games.
Riveting back-to-back five-game WNBA Finals showdowns have given us the best of the WNBA to end the 2016 and '17 seasons. Will we see the same matchup for a third time in a row this September?
The easy answer? Sure, why not? Both teams return almost all of their key players as well as their outstanding coaches, Cheryl Reeve and Brian Agler, strategizing again. There's plenty of evidence pointing toward Minnesota and Los Angeles again finishing 1-2 and getting automatic bids into the semifinals.
However, we've never had the same matchup three years in a row in the WNBA Finals. So let's look at this the other way: If we don't get a Lynx-Sparks matchup again, what could be the biggest reasons why?
1. The age factor
The Lynx, in particular, are tired of the old cliché, "Nobody's getting any younger." They've been hearing it a while. Plus, there's a lot to be said for the good side of age: experience. But the fact remains that Minnesota's core five are Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsay Whalen, both 36; Seimone Augustus, 34; Sylvia Fowles, 32; and Maya Moore, 28. Tanisha Wright, 34, is the oldest of the bench players.
The Sparks bring back Alana Beard, who turned 36 this week; Candace Parker, 32; and Essence Carson, 31. Cappie Pondexter, 35, also joins the Sparks.
Rest is going to be at a premium this summer, especially with the schedule more compacted so the season can end in September before the FIBA World Cup. Both Reeve and Agler are used to balancing this, but it will be very important this season.
2. The injury factor
Both teams have been able to keep their starting lineups mostly healthy the past two seasons. In 2016, among the Sparks' starters -- Nneka Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, Parker, Carson and Beard -- there were just two missed games in the regular season, and none in the playoffs. In 2017, four of Los Angeles' starters -- Ogwumike, Parker, Beard and Chelsea Gray -- started every game except one (that Parker missed) in the regular season and all the playoff games. The other starting position last year moved between three players in the regular season, as Carson dealt with injury. But Odyssey Sims claimed that spot for the second half of the season and throughout the playoffs.