After a week-long series of WNBA Finals previews, we summarize the key points and (finally?) offer a prediction.
Links in the headers go to the relevant previous articles.
NBA TV highlights of the Atlanta Dream's win over the Minnesota Lynx on August 20. Click here for notes on how the Atlanta Dream beat the Minnesota Lynx on August 20.The Lynx are making their third consecutive WNBA Finals appearance, their first three in franchise history.
- The Dream are making their third WNBA Finals appearance in four years, their first three in (their six-season) franchise history as well.
- The Dream and Lynx previously met in the WNBA Finals in 2011. The Lynx swept that series 3-0.
- Including those three wins in the Finals, the Lynx had beaten the Dream eight consecutive times before the Dream ended the streak on August 20 with a 88-75 win in Atlanta.
- They split their regular season meetings, with the home team winning each time.
How did they get here?
How the Dream got here:
- Defeated the Washington Mystics 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
- Defeated the Indiana Fever 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
How the Lynx got here:
- Defeated the Seattle Storm 2-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals
- Defeated the Phoenix Mercury 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals
Who are the key players to watch?
MVP: Angel McCoughtry, G/F, 6'1" (WNBA.com bio)
2013 regular season stats: League-high 21.5 PPG, career-high 5.3 RPG, career-high 4.4 APG)
A lot will probably be made of McCoughtry's scoring and activity on defense, but the key improvement she has made in a MVP-caliber season is with her improvement as a distributor this season. With her ability to create for others, she's extremely difficult to stop.
Key player: Erika de Souza, C, 6'5" (WNBA.com bio)
2013 regular season stats: Career-high 12.9 PPG, career-high 9.9 RPG, career-high 1.8 BPG)
As much as anything you can see from the stats, de Souza is a player who can take up space in the paint on both ends: defensively, her ability to rebound helps the Dream run. Offensively, her ability to score around the basket and get offensive boards makes the Dream that much more dangerous.
MVP: Team chemistry
Leading scorer: Maya Moore, F, 6'0" (WNBA.com bio)
2013 regular season stats: Career-high 18.5 PPG, career-high 6.2 RPG, 3.0 APG
In my continued refusal to identify a MVP for the Lynx, leading scorer Maya Moore has been dangerous this year as she shot 45.3% from the 3-point line. With all the other weapons around her, where she can really burn a defense is by moving without the ball.
Assist leader: Lindsay Whalen, PG, 5'9" (WNBA.com bio)
2013 regular season stats: Career-high 14.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.4 RPG
There was a lot of talk about Whalen being the MVP of the Lynx this season and there's little question that she's the engine that makes this high-powered offense go. With outstanding court vision and an ability to get to the basket, a strong performance from her makes the Lynx hard to beat.
What might determine the outcome of this series?
- Focused help defense
- Scoring points in transition
- Finding mismatches with small ball lineups
- Disciplined defense on McCoughtry
- Driving with the intent to score
- Transition defense
Key statistic: Turnovers
Although people will probably focus on the rebounding matchup with the Dream and Lynx being two of the top four rebounding teams in the WNBA during the regular season, it's interesting to note that in their two regular the winner lost the offensive rebounding battle. What did play a factor was the turnover margin: in both cases, the winner managed to establish an advantage there. For the Dream, that creating turnovers helps fuel their transition attack; for the Lynx, controlling the ball means they're not giving up transition scoring opportunities to the Dream.
X-factor for the Dream: Alex Bentley, PG, 5'7" (WNBA.com bio)
For a team that wants to create chaos and push tempo, the ability to pressure opposing point guards is a major asset. Bentley has a build that makes her the type of defender that can contend with Whalen a little bit better than starting point guard Jasmine Thomas.
X-factor for the Lynx: Monica Wright, G/F, 5'10" (WNBA.com bio)
Wright's versatility off the bench has been a major part of what makes the Lynx so dangerous this season as she gives coach Cheryl Reeve flexibility in her rotation. Against a team that likes to overplay on the perimeter, Wright's ability to drive to the basket and score or get to the line could be a major asset.
Key matchup: Erika de Souza vs. the Lynx frontcourt
This is pretty simple: de Souza is 6'5". Minnesota's post rotation features three 6'2" players. The extent to which the Lynx can limit de Souza will go a long way to deciding this series.
With the Lynx coming into this series with home court advantage, the Dream's challenge in this series is this: they'll either have to beat the Lynx twice in Minneapolis or beat them twice in a row in Atlanta. Even after the Indiana Fever surprised everyone by beating the Lynx in four games last year, that's just hard to imagine happening.
But the Dream have what it takes to make this a tougher series on the Lynx than some people might be expecting: if they can establish de Souza in the post and use their quickness to break up the Lynx's normally outstanding ball movement, they'll have a chance to push this to five games.
Finals MVP: Maya Moore
Moore can really fill it up and it's difficult to imagine a scenario where the Lynx win where she's not a major part of it.
|Sun., Oct. 6||President's press conf.||Target Center||6:30 p.m.||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Game 1||Target Center||7:30 p.m.||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Tues., Oct. 8||Game 2||Target Center||7 p.m.||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thurs., Oct. 10||Game 3||Gwinnett Center||8:30 p.m.||8:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Sun., Oct. 13||Game 4 *||Gwinnett Center||8 p.m.||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Weds., Oct. 16||Game 5 *||Target Center||7 p.m.||8 p.m.||ESPN|
For more in-depth breakdowns of this series, check out our 2013 WNBA Finals storystream.