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Eight teams. Nearly a month of competition. The fall brings out the best in the WNBA, all aimed at one goal -- winning the league championship.
Here are five things to watch in the WNBA playoffs.
1. The balancing act
In the playoffs for the first time since 2004, the Minnesota Lynx are the toughest team to stop because there are so many sources of scoring on the floor. Four players -- Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson -- tout double-digit scoring averages. But the balance in Minnesota is about more than just points. Minnesota has outrebounded opponents by 6.5 per game. And it has been the second-best defensive team in the league, allowing opponents just 73.1 points a game. All of that success, coupled with good health, makes the Lynx a title favorite.
2. Healthy stars?
Many of the league's playoff teams begin their respective series with key players on the mend. The Phoenix Mercury played their last five games heading into the postseason without forward Penny Taylor. Taylor, who has been battling back spasms, is the offensive complement to Diana Taurasi. And it's hard to imagine the Mercury winning a title without Taylor playing major minutes.
San Antonio has rookie standout Danielle Adams back in the lineup after she missed more than a month with a foot injury, while Seattle's Lauren Jackson, the three-time league MVP, admits she is still not 100 percent after late-June hip surgery. But she will be on the floor when the Storm tip off against Phoenix.
3. Young guns
The San Antonio Silver Stars closed the regular season with four wins in five games, but find themselves as overwhelming underdogs in their semifinal series against Minnesota. But if the Stars pull off the upset, it might be on the back of their rookies. Rookie guard Danielle Robinson busted out with a career-high 36 points against Tulsa in the season finale Sunday. She took the team's rookie scoring record away from Adams, who had put up 32 earlier in the year and has had one of the best rookie seasons in the league this year. Adams is third on the Stars in scoring, averaging 12.4 points a game off the bench as a spark. Adams' return to the lineup after a foot injury coincided with San Antonio's rescuing its postseason hopes.
4. Carrying on
The Indiana Fever are starting the postseason at something less than full strength. Star Tamika Catchings -- the team's leader in scoring and assists -- is going to play after sitting out the season finale with a knee strain, but is she 100 percent? Point guard Erin Phillips, who has played all season in the absence of Briann January (out with an ACL injury), missed the final two games of the regular season with a sprained ankle. Phillips vows she will be in the lineup for the series opener against New York. And guard Shavonte Zellous is likely out with a high ankle sprain, an injury doesn't heal easily.
5. The Cappie watch
New York Liberty coach John Whisenant revealed earlier this week that Cappie Pondexter's offensive struggles -- she's averaged just 11.5 points over the last five games -- are due to an ankle sprain Pondexter incurred in a back-to-back set with Minnesota earlier this month.
"She's been going without full air in her wheels," Whisenant said. "She's now, we think, recovered about 80-90 percent, but it's had her a little out of sync."