Minnesota and Atlanta vie for the WNBA Championship


When the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player is injured, it’s easy to blame her team’s loss in the conference playoffs on a less-than-100% performance. But looking at the final game between the Indiana Fever and the Atlanta Dream, the Fever’s loss couldn’t be attributed to Tamika Catchings‘ ineffective play with a plantar fascia tear. The Dream just played better, especially in the second half.

The win means that, starting Sunday on ESPN, the Dream plays for the WNBA Championship against the Minnesota Lynx. But outplaying the Lynx is something few teams have managed to do this season. Minnesota was 27-7 in regular season play and lost only one playoff game. This is the best Lynx team in the history of the franchise.

The Dream took its time getting hot. Midway through this season, I doubt anybody would’ve put Atlanta in the finals. But then the Dream was touched by an Angel, and the mighty McCoughtry started her climb into the top tier of WNBA scorers. By the end of the season, she was second to Diana Taurasi by only five-hundredths of a point.

During the playoffs, McCoughtry has been a scoring machine. Even on an off night against the Fever, she scored 26 points.

That’s why Minnesota isn’t the runaway favorite to win the championship, despite beating Atlanta the two times they met early in the season. The Dream offense is more than Angel McCoughtryIziane Castro Marques scored 26.5 points per game in the Eastern finals wins. Lindsay Harding had 20 assists. And the Dream defense has learned to force turnovers like nobody else in the league.

Yet, the Lynx is a solid, balanced team that has a lot of different play options. Under the direction of WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota has dominated all season, both at home and on the road. During the last playoff game vs. Phoenix, six Lynx players scored in double digits. Lindsay Whalen not only runs the court with an all-seeing eye, she is a dangerous scorer. And if Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliam-Franklin play as usual, Minnesota will be hard to stop. (If you’d like to hear Augustus’s thoughts on the finals, give this interview a listen.)

The bottom line is this should be one of the best WNBA Championship series ever. Both teams are going for first-time championships and both enjoy fast, physical basketball. If the officials decide to let them play, we’re in for a treat. And despite the fact that some jerk somewhere will say, “Oh, is the WNBA still around?” the fact is that these women have been playing some of the purest and most beautiful basketball in the world for 15 years.

Even John Wooden loved WBB.

My pick is the same as it’s been all season: the Lynx. But with Atlanta playing the way it is, I think Minnesota will need five games to win the trophy. And with these two teams in the contest, even if I’m wrong, I win.

Which team will be the WNBA Champions? Give us your prediction — and reasons for it — in the comments.

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