Commentary

What to watch for in the playoffs

Updated: September 20, 2013, 3:04 AM ET
By Rebecca Lobo | espnW.com

Diana TaurasiChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesDiana Taurasi, one of the most exciting women to ever play the game, lives for playoff moments.

What I'm looking forward to in the first round of the WNBA playoffs:

Big-girl panties

The other day I looked in my purse and found a pair of size 4T Wonder Woman underwear. (Any mom with a daughter who is potty-training understands why they were there. And yes … they were clean.) But it's not just moms of young kids who are talking about big-girl underwear these days. Candace Parker (yes, mom of a young daughter) was waxing poetic on the need for strong undergarments when talking about the Sparks' upcoming series with Phoenix.

"We need just to put our big-girl panties on and go to work," Parker said.

Parker has done just that in the Sparks' regular-season games against Phoenix, averaging 25.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per against the Mercury. But it's going to come down to the star-laden supporting cast (did Wonder Woman have a sidekick?) for L.A. to advance. (Parker actually averaged three more points per game and 3.6 more rebounds per game in L.A.'s losses this season than in its wins.)

In the first round, will Phoenix's size on the perimeter bother Sparks guard Kristi Toliver? The Mercury are the tallest team in the WNBA; each player in the starting lineup stands taller than 6-foot. The 5-7 Toliver shot below her season average from the field and from 3-point range against Phoenix this season. She's capable of big games and L.A. will need some in order to advance to the conference finals.

Really big-girl panties

[+] EnlargeSwin Cash
AP PhotoSwin Cash's leadership and playoff experience is vital to Chicago's success.

Of course, "panties" makes me think of Lin Dunn. Well, let me rephrase. "Panties" makes me think of the funniest thing that we've ever caught on a coach's microphone during a live WNBA telecast. (Carol Ross telling an L.A. player who had gotten hit in the leg to "rub it while you run" comes in a close second.)

Last season, Indiana coach Dunn told her team that the referees were "getting their panties in a wad."

The reigning champion Fever can do that to people. How will Indiana's first-round opponent -- the Chicago Sky -- handle the pressure of playing in their first postseason? Will Elena Delle Donne continue her stellar play? What about everyone else?

Mechelle Voepel wrote about the importance of Epiphanny Prince, and I think Swin Cash is another key. She is the only member of the Sky who has won a WNBA championship, and she is the emotional and vocal leader of that team. More vital than her points and rebounds will be Cash's ability to get her teammates ready for the pressures of the playoffs.

Home-court advantage

Last season's Seattle-Minnesota first-round series provided some of the best playoff moments of 2012. The Storm's double-overtime win over the Lynx at KeyArena was one of the most exciting basketball games I've ever called. The crowd was amazing and helped propel the Storm to victory.

The question in 2013: Will the Storm faithful travel to Tacoma?

Because of a building conflict, KeyArena isn't available for the Storm's home game on Sunday. I'm eager to see how that affects the energy in the building.

I'm also eager to see Minnesota again in person. (How is it possible that we aired only one Minnesota game this season, July 9 versus Atlanta?) I've watched the Lynx a lot on TV and on Live Access, but look forward to seeing them up close again. They proved to be the best team in the WNBA during the regular season and I expect more outstanding play in the playoffs.

Diana Taurasi

In 2013, Taurasi was the first player to average 20 points and six assists in a season. She's the only player to have nine technical fouls in a season, too.

She's fiery, passionate and one of the most exciting women to ever play the game. And she lives for playoff moments.

I want to see how she performs against L.A. while finally surrounded by a healthy roster and led by a coach who puts a strong emphasis on defense.

Russ Pennell is a dynamic and personable coach who understands Taurasi's fire -- before the Chicago game, he told ESPN, "I was just like her when I played" -- and he won't try to tone her down. Instead, before games he tells the officials, "If D is getting on your nerves, look at me, and I'll take care of it."

As Sue Bird once told me, "Having fun for D is dropping 40 and winning championships." How much fun will Taurasi have this weekend?

Rebecca Lobo

Women's Basketball
    Lobo won the 1995 National Player of the Year Award after leading the UConn women's basketball team to its first national championship. She was the youngest member of the 1996 gold-medal-winning Olympic team, and now, after seven seasons in the WNBA, covers basketball for ESPN.

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