Sparks forward Candace Parker averaged 28.5 points, nine rebounds and… (Darren Abate / Associated…)
Sparks Coach Carol Ross is wondering the same thing that most WNBA teams pondered all season.
"How can we beat Minnesota on their home court?" Ross said.
Both the defending champion Lynx and the Sparks were nearly perfect at home during the regular season, each team finishing with a 16-1 record. Unfortunately for the Sparks, the Lynx has home-court advantage in the best-of-three-games Western Conference finals, which begin Thursday at Minnesota at 5 p.m. (TV: ESPN2).
The Sparks breezed past the San Antonio Silver Stars in the first round with a 2-0 sweep. Top-seeded Minnesota had a harder time, narrowly beating the Seattle Storm, 73-72, in Game 3 on Tuesday evening.
The Sparks, who were 2-2 against the Lynx in the regular season, lost both games in Minnesota.
"They're the best team in the league," Ross said of the Lynx. "They were last year and they are this year."
Four of the Lynx's starters are at least 6 feet, creating a matchup challenge for the Sparks. Minnesota is led by 6-0 guard Seimone Augustus, who averaged 20 points and 5.7 rebounds in the first round of the playoffs, 6-foot-2 forward Rebekkah Brunson (16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds), and 6-0 forward Maya Moore (16 points, 6.3 rebounds).
"They're probably the biggest team in the league when it comes from the point position to their five spot," Ross said. "It's a different matchup because we're not able to really go player for player. It's really got to be teamwork."
The Sparks finished second in the Western Conference with a record of 24-10, just behind the Lynx, who had the best record in the league at 27-7.
The Sparks are led by most valuable player runner-up Candace Parker, who averaged 28.5 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the first round, and Kristi Toliver, named the league's most improved player, who averaged 26 points and three rebounds in the first round.
Ross said that to beat the Lynx on its home court, each Sparks starter needs to score in double digits and play at her highest level.
"We're going to have to be at our all-time best to pull that off," she said.