In one way, a game-winning buzzer-beater in a rematch of the last two WNBA Finals is exactly what ESPN's WNBA Basketball Power Index (BPI) predicted. Entering the season opener, no more than one field goal was expected to be the difference between Minnesota and Los Angeles.
It might come as no surprise that the Lynx and Sparks once again top our early BPI rankings. At this point in the season, BPI essentially is a reflection of last year's ratings, but everyone is a little closer to "average." For instance, BPI would expect Minnesota or Los Angeles to beat an average WNBA team by approximately six points on a neutral court with equal rest and the same number of possessions. That is most likely a conservative projection for the league's last two champions, who combined for 37 double-digit victories in 2017.
The offensive and defensive components of BPI demonstrate the differences in these perennial powerhouses. Despite turning over the ball 24 times in its season opener against Los Angeles, Minnesota's offense remains one of BPI's top two units. Los Angeles is a much more balanced team, with a defense that ranks second in expected points above average.
The Lynx and Sparks will meet three more times in the regular season, and they have a 12 percent chance of crossing paths in the playoffs, including a 3.1 percent chance of meeting in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season. While that might sound low, it is actually the most likely Finals matchup in 10,000 simulations.
That likelihood could be much higher when they meet next on June 3 if each team gets off to a hot start.
According to BPI, Minnesota has a 53 percent chance to secure its first home win of the season Wednesday against Dallas. Meanwhile, the Sparks continue their road swing with visits to Indiana and Connecticut. Los Angeles has a 28 percent chance to return home with an unblemished record before hosting Phoenix, which is BPI's top-rated offense through two games.
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