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The WNBA features two matchups tonight, ending with the Indiana Fever visiting the Minnesota Lynx at 8:00 pm ET. PointsBet Sportsbook opened this game with a spread of Lynx -11 and the line increased to 11.5 with the total at 158.5. I think the underdog has value in this game, and I’m going to the spread for my best bet of tonight’s basketball slate. My WNBA picks went 12-9 in the second half, including 6-1 on two-unit plays so far.
Indiana Fever vs. Minnesota Lynx
Minnesota recently dropped behind the Mercury to the fifth seed in the WNBA standings. The Lynx own a 18-10 record and sit only 0.5 game behind Phoenix and one game behind Seattle for the third seed. The Fever own the worst record in the league this season at 6-21 but went 13-14 ATS so far this season, including 13-11 ATS as underdogs. The Fever also went 7-3 ATS in the last 10 games as underdogs of 10 points or more, so Indiana is capable of covering big spreads despite going 1-9 straight up in those matchups.
Indiana owns a poor defense that ranks last in the league in defensive rating but there is reason to be optimistic about the team's chances tonight. The Fever earned the third-highest rebounding rate in the league this year and led the WNBA in offensive rebounds per game since the break. Indiana grabbed 11.3 offensive boards per game, with no other team eclipsing a double-digit offensive rebounding average in that time. The Fever rank third in the league for average second-chance points and fifth in fast-break points this year and played even better since the break. Since the start of August, the Fever ranked fifth in points off turnovers and led the league in both second-chance points and fast-break points per game.
Center Teaira McCowan is responsible for Indiana's recent rebounding success, as the third-year guard put up 11.1 points and ranked in the top-five with 9.5 boards per game this season. After the break, McCowan took another leap forward to dominate opposing interior players on the offensive glass. McCowan already led the league in offensive rebounds per game but since the break, she put up 10.7 boards per game, with a whopping 4.9 coming on the offensive end. Brianna Turner is the only other player above three offensive rebounds per game in that span with 3.1, so McCowan is unmatched across the league in her ability on the offensive boards. For some context on how impressive this output is, only counting McCowan's offensive rebounding average would still place her among the league's top 30 rebounders since the break.
Kelsey Mitchell is the team's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, and she increased her average to 19.3 points in seven games since the break.Tiffany Mitchell ranks second on the team in scoring with 11.9 points per game and her ability to run the offense is important for the Fever's chances in this game. The sixth-year guard grades in the 95th percentile for offensive points per possession (PPP) as a pick and roll ball handler. Mitchell also is comfortable on the defensive end guarding bigger assignments as she ranked in the 96th percentile defending opposing post-up plays despite her 5'9" stature.
The Fever lead the league in PPP scored from offensive rebounds and also own the best offensive PPP mark on possessions using a pick and roll ball handler. Pick and roll ballhandlers comprised 19.7% of the team's offense this season, the second-highest frequency in the league. This is a good sign against Minnesota as the Lynx defense allowed the fifth-highest PPP against opposing pick and roll ball handlers this season and second-highest PPP against opposing rollers.
Minnesota leads the league in efficiency on post-up plays with 1.09 PPP, but McCowan and the Fever should be able to limit Sylvia Fowles inside as Indiana allows the fifth-fewest PPP against opposing post-ups, the team's best defensive rank against any kind of play according to Synergy.
One concern for the Fever is the questionable status of guard Danielle Robinson. I think Robinson will be a major factor in this game if healthy, as she is the only Fever player ranked in the top-10 for steals per game this season and leads the team in assists per game. Robinson, a tenacious perimeter defender, can provide solid defense against Minnesota's guards, including Kayla McBride. McBride ranks in the top 10 percentiles for PPP scored from overall offense as well as PPP from plays off screens, cuts or miscellaneous actions this season.
As mentioned previously in my picks articles, Fowles is a worthy Defensive Player of the Year favorite for her dominant defense in the post, but she doesn't fare as well defending pick and rolls. Fowles ranks in the 99th percentile of fewest PPP against opposing post-up plays (0.364 PPP) but conceded 1.591 PPP against opposing pick and roll rollers, the worst mark in the league among players that defended at least 10 pick and roll possessions.
The Lynx will still be without Damiris Dantas, who allowed the third-fewest overall PPP on defense among Lynx starters, and point guard Layshia Clarendon, who conceded the second-fewest overall defensive PPP among Lynx starters this season. These injuries could impact the team's elite fourth-quarter defense as the team led the league in fourth-quarter defensive rating this season but dropped to third in three games since losing Dantas.
Playing without Clarendon is another hit for Minnesota's defense. The Lynx replace Clarendon, who ranked in the 78th percentile of overall defense, with 5'5" guard Crystal Dangerfield. Dangerfield won Rookie of the Year last season but was relegated to a bench role this year with the arrival of Clarendon and graded in the 20th percentile of overall defensive PPP allowed.
Minnesota went 15-5 in games with the team's starting point guard active compared to 3-5 without them this season. Clarendon also put up 6.6 points in the paint per game to rank in the top five for average points in the paint among guards this season.
The last game for the Lynx was a 102-81 loss to the Aces on Wednesday where Las Vegas dominated Minnesota inside by a margin of 52 to 30 points in the paint. The Lynx scored only two fast-break points as the team struggled to win the transition battle. This could be an issue tonight as Minnesota ranked ninth in offensive PPP on transition plays and last in defensive PPP allowed in transition.
I think the Lynx should win this game, but I like the Fever to cover the spread at +11.5. Indiana’s success against large spreads and the team’s offensive rebounding and transition advantages should be enough to keep the matchup close and prevent the Lynx from pulling away. I would also consider taking the Fever in the first half at +6.5 to avoid Minnesota’s strong fourth quarter defense, but my best bet of the night is the Fever full game spread at +11.5.
EDGE: Indiana Fever +11.5
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