Despite a late season swoon, Atlanta was in charge of the Eastern Conference virtually from start to finish. So, having the now-healthy Chicago Sky fall to the No. 4 seed on the last day of the regular season couldnt have been what the Dream were looking for.
Heading into the season, the conventional wisdom was that Atlanta and Chicago were the two teams to beat in the East. Then, Chicago endured prolonged absences from each of its Big Three -- Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince -- and it took until the final few weeks of the season for the team get into a rhythm at full strength.
On the surface, this series is a tale of two teams seemingly heading in different directions. Atlanta lost 10 of its last 14, while Chicago went 5-3 in their last eight games once EDD returned. That said, the Dream still have one of the most talented rosters in the league highlighted by the All-Star duo of Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza and they boast a wealth of Playoff experience having made it to the three of the last four WNBA Finals.
The Tale of the Tape
The Players to Watch
Atlanta: There's no doubt that Angel McCoughtry is the player to watch in this series. She concluded the regular season averaging 18.5 points per game and she also led the league in steals. She has a solid post presence to work with in Erika de Souza, who finished the season averaging 13.8 points per game. And, of course, who could forget about Shoni Schimmel's showmanship and overall charge that she brings to the Dream.
Chicago: Of course Chicago is all about Elena Delle Donne, who was the obvious missing piece when Chicago struggled later in the season. But Chicago also suffered when Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot were out of the lineup at various times. With a healthy team -- and EDD playing like an MVP candidate -- this Chicago team is much tougher than your average No. 4 seed.
The Stat to Know
0 Despite three trips to the Finals in the last four years, Atlanta has yet to win a Finals game, having been swept on all three occassions. For a fierce competitor like Angel McCoughtry and the rest of Atlanta team that has lived through those setbacks, that undoubtedly is serving as motivation heading into this postseason.
This year, Atlanta brought in a head coach with a championship pedigree in Michael Cooper and he should have his squad in the right mindset entering this series and beyond.
Showtime in ATL: Capable of incredible individual performances see her 29 points in the All-Star Game or her 20 points in a single quarter against the Mercury on Aug. 13 the guard they refer to as Showtime can explode at any minute. Averaging 21.0 minutes and 8.3 points per game, Dream coach Michael Cooper has been careful not to rely on the rookie too much too early, but with the team's season on the line, he could call on his not-so-secret weapon off the bench even more.
Chicago On a Role: When star players go out, others need to step up, and thats exactly what happened with a pair of Sky role players this season. With Sylvia Fowles out, Jessica Breland carried the load for the Sky frontline at the onset of the season and even averaged a double-double in May. In addition to Breland, Allie Quigley saw her minutes increase significantly and she is putting up career numbers even winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Aug. 4 through Aug. 10.
One of the most heartwarming stories of this entire season has been the emergence of Jessica Breland. A cancer survivor, Breland has bounced around, playing for four teams in her four years in the WNBA. After a breakout year in 2014, it appears the 6-foot-3 forward has finally found a home.