2012 WNBA Finals Mega-Preview: Lynx vs. Fever, Part 2 – The Post

Interestingly enough, we’ve arrived at a Finals without a major low post scoring threat for either team. Minnesota have Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who can both finish inside or knock down shots from mid-range, but aren’t exactly players you toss the ball to down low and watch go to work. Indiana have Tamika Catchings, who’s still more of a perimeter player offensively, and now Erlana Larkins likely to start at center. Larkins only became a starter in Game 2 of the Atlanta series, with Fever head coach Lin Dunn searching for someone who could give her team energy inside and rebounding effort. Larkins does exactly that, despite being undersized, and her efforts against the bigger names of Atlanta and Connecticut have played a big role in taking Indiana this far. The Fever started to use her as an offensive option a little more down low in the Connecticut series, making Tina Charles work at both ends of the floor, but Larkins still isn’t high on their list of offensive options. These posts are out there for a lot more than their interior scoring.

Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin are the base of the Minnesota defense. They’re the interior core that makes it hard for the opposition to score against the Lynx inside, both mobile and smart enough to be in the right places against their assigned matchups and to help against penetration. McWilliams-Franklin is the wily veteran who does nothing faster than it needs to be done. You notice her most when she’s off the floor, and gaps that weren’t there before seem to appear far more readily in the Lynx defense. Brunson is the athlete, a voracious rebounder who rises up for boards or chases down balls that seemed like a lost cause. She can also get out in transition alongside the guards, and has a mid-range jumper that she regularly knocks down. Augustus and Moore draw so much attention that it’s often Brunson left in space, and she’s more than willing to make teams pay.

The rebounding battle is going to be fun to watch in this series. Up against Brunson, both Larkins and Catchings will fight to their dying breath for every rebound and loose ball available anywhere on the floor. They’re undersized compared to the Lynx frontcourt, but effort, positioning and pure will can make up for a lot. If the Fever need more size they have Jessica Davenport and Tammy Sutton-Brown waiting in the wings, but neither of them are that great on the glass. Indiana will need Catchings and Larkins to keep the rebounding battle as close as possible to give themselves a chance. Based on the regular season, this is #2 in the WNBA (Minnesota) vs. #10 (Indiana) in rebounding percentage, but Larkins has made the Fever look a different team in that area in the last few games. It’ll be a war on the glass.

Points in the paint for Indiana tend to come on penetration or in transition. Their approach changes a little when Davenport comes in, and after a couple of useful cameos against Connecticut she’ll likely get the chance to perform against Minnesota. She gives them a big body who likes to use her short jumper and soft touch to create points. With Larkins and Catchings it’s all about offensive rebounds, quick cuts, and mobility.

At the defensive end, Indiana’s approach down low is an extension of their perimeter defense. They make passes awkward, they challenge everything as hard as possible, and use quickness and toughness to make life difficult for the opposition. We’ll see double-teams on the low post if Minnesota ever venture down there in halfcourt sets, and we’ll see Catchings and Larkins showing hard on screens or simply switching onto the smaller player. Minnesota are good at exploiting mismatches that switches create, but Indiana are good at recognising them and sending help when they have to. It’ll be a constant battle of wills between both the players and the head coaches in terms of how they try to break down these tough, stingy defenses.

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