After sweeping their way through the semifinals, both the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have a chance to complete the third perfect postseason since the WNBA Finals moved to a best-of-five series in 2005.
However, the BPI predicts that this year's Finals, which open Sunday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), have a 37.5 percent chance to go the full five games for the third straight year. In the first 10 years under the five-game format, the Finals went the distance three times, compared to five Finals that ended in sweeps.
While the same teams met in the 2016 Finals, this year's matchup pits balance against power. According to ESPN's WNBA Basketball Power Index (BPI), the reigning champion Sparks enter the Finals with an offense nearly as solid as its defense, with both units adding an expected five points to the final scoring margin against an average WNBA team.
On the other hand, the Lynx begin their title quest with an offense making more than nine times the expected contribution of its defense. This was evident in the semifinals, as Minnesota averaged seven more points per game than the Sparks, but allowed three more points per game on defense.
Overall, the BPI rates the Lynx and Sparks at nearly equal strength, expecting Game 1 to be decided by less than a basket -- following suit of the 2016 WNBA Finals winner-take-all Game 5.
While the BPI gives the Lynx a 52.1 percent chance to tie the Houston Comets with a fourth title, history does not side with Minnesota. The last NBA/WNBA team to lose a winner-take-all league championship by one point was the 1955 Fort Wayne Pistons, who lost Game 7 to the Syracuse Nationals. The Pistons went on to lose in the championship the following season.
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