WNBL Semi-finals preview: Rangers v Lynx
Dandenong go into this series with home court advantage (where they hold a 8-4 record) and the confidence of a 3-1 series result against Perth this year. The Lynx, however, are the leading offensive unit in the WNBL and in Sami Whitcomb boasts the overwhelming MVP and a player explosive enough to throw the most meticulous game plans into disarray.
Perth are particularly strong from three point range, though their strength in this area is somewhat eroded against Dandenong who have a pair of elite perimeter defenders in Blicavs and Cumming. Whitcomb averages 18.75 against Dandenong this year, down on her historically good season average of 23.6. Expect Dandenong to start the dogged, steal-happy Amelia Todhunter on Whitcomb, where she has had some success. Rangers are also like to employ reigning defensive player of the year Steph Cumming on Whitcomb at times as well. The Perth star’s remarkable ability to create her own shot means she is unlikely to be neutralised, but if Dandenong can stop her from going crazy (as when she scored 12 last quarter points in Perth’s win over the Rangers) it will go a long way towards victory.
Perth’s advantage in outside shooting becomes clear when you consider Whitcomb and Mijovic alone have made only one less made 3 pointer than the entire Dandenong team. In fact, Perth have almost 100 more 3 pointers than Dandenong over the course of the season (252-154). The disparity is particularly surprising as it’s not like Dandenong don’t have capable long-range shooter themselves, with Cumming (42% this year), Blicavs (40%) and Novosel (48% on a small sample size) all well above average. Novosel particularly likes to work from mid-range.
6’4 forward Malott is also hitting three-pointers at a good clip (39%) and could be the key to Dandenong going small, as they did with some success against Sydney before the fatigue of an unfriendly schedule and early flights caught up with them. If Dandenong do give Malott minutes at centre, Perth would likely counter with their own stretch four, Carley Mijovic. Mijovic is obviously a tough cover in her own right, but given that Hamblin was pivotal in Perth’s lone win over Dandenong this season, claiming 4 blocks, Rangers may prefer her role being minimised. Perth have also been a better rebounding team than Dandenong, but even winning the battle of the boards in their most recent meeting didn’t prevent the Lynx slumping to a 22 point loss.
Perhaps the biggest advantage for Dandenong lies in their enviably deep bench. In their four meetings this year, the Dandenong second unit has outscored Perth’s reserves by a total of 44 points. Former Opal Jacinta Kennedy is an absolute luxury to bring off the bench, while imports Novosel and Malott have had nice seasons and Rosie Fadljevic can contribute energetic defence at multiple positions.
Ultimately the Rangers seem equipped to neutralise Perth strengths and though the freewheeling scoring of Whitcomb and Mijovic should net Perth one win, Rangers in three seems the most likely result.
Prediction: Dandenong 2-1