The 2011 WNBA Finals: The Prediction
The WNBA Finals tip off Sunday. Who will win?
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
This is the moment fans of the Minnesota Lynx have waited for now for years. The long-suffering franchise finally has the opportunity to play for the first-ever WNBA Championship and, by most accounts, are the favorites to come away with the prize.
This is also the moment fans of the Atlanta Dream have waited for since this time last season. After reaching the WNBA Finals last year, the Dream faced some early adversity, yet came through it as a better team with more resolve, ready to accomplish the goal that eluded them last year.
This is the moment fans of women’s basketball should be quite excited for, whether or not they are true fans of either of the teams representing the WNBA on the biggest stage. Some of the best and most discussed storylines throughout the season are present as the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream square off to fight it out for the title of being the league’s best.
Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk about the Atlanta Dream and whether their run to the WNBA Finals last season was a fluke. This is always a conversation that is unfair to any team in any sport, as each season is a unique and wonderful creature of its own. The Dream were the best team at the right time in the Eastern Conference last year. Period.
More impressively, after early season struggles, the Dream found their rhythm and went on a run to place themselves in the position of the hottest team in the league, playing at their respective peak as the WNBA Playoffs began. The rode their momentum through the Eastern Conference, reaching the apex in the Game Three win on the road in Indiana to become the Eastern Conference Champions.
The Minnesota Lynx missed the playoffs last year after giving a glimmer of hope for the future. Cheryl Reeve came to town with a defensive-minded philosophy and some may have questioned her ability to have offensive-minded players buy into that philosophy. Yet, she found her players to be more receptive than critics believed they would be, making her job easier than the doubters believed it would be this early.
Add players such as Rookie of the Year Maya Moore and the simply amazing Taj McWilliams-Franklin to a roster already full of talent, the Minnesota Lynx were the team with a target on their backs all season. They responded to the challenge, finishing the regular season with the best record in the WNBA and lost a single game in the playoffs before claiming the title of Western Conference Champions.
Seemingly every media member who covers the WNBA has come out with their predictions for how the WNBA Finals will play out in 2011, as is usually the case. In a vast majority of those predictions, the Minnesota Lynx are the team expected to walk away with the title. While it may be a safe bet to select the team with the home court advantage in the Finals to become the champions, it is also a safe bet that a majority of these experts are severely underestimating the Atlanta Dream.
It very well may be true that the title of “2011 WNBA Champions” is there for the Minnesota Lynx to lose, but there are very few teams better equipped to take that title away from them than the Atlanta Dream.
Some point to how easily the Lynx seemingly dispatched of the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals as an indicator of how they will handle the Dream in the Finals. This is a mistake. Although the Phoenix Mercury are a great team, capable of accomplishing amazing things such as their ridiculously amazing win in Seattle to reach the Conference Finals, they were also an incomplete team since the trade of Kara Braxton. They fought valiantly and will be a force in the future, but have issues to address and the Lynx helped to point out those issues in a dramatic series win.
While the Dream will play Game One without Erika de Souza, they do not have the same flaws as the Mercury. They are a complete team, led by one of the best wing players in the league in Angel McCoughtry. Do not take this team lightly. The Atlanta Dream will either win the title, shocking the WNBA world and accomplishing their goal or they will make the heavily-favored Minnesota Lynx work for every basket, every win and the series. It will not be easy.
Each game of the WNBA Finals will be back and forth, there will not be any blowout wins either way and the competitive spirit and fire of each team will be on full display for the world to see. It will be a great series, showcasing the best of the WNBA and be a fantastic finish to what was another great year of WNBA basketball.
With all that said, the Minnesota Lynx will win the WNBA title in four closely contested games.
As the WNBA Finals tip off Sunday, be sure to follow Stephen Litel on Twitter @stephenlitel. Join the conversations during the game, as he is chatting away from media row. Question? Comment? Let’s chat about these great Finals as they are going on. See you on Twitter. —Stephen