Finals Preview: Seattle Storm (1) vs. Atlanta Dream (4)

Sep 8 2010 1:26AM
Who will win the WNBA Finals?
Who will win the WNBA Finals?
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After 408 combined games, 204 regular season matchups and 13 playoff meetings, the cream has risen to the top, leaving only two teams out of a sea of 12 to duke it out and claim one highly coveted WNBA championship.

As one of the youngest franchises in the league, the season marked a number of firsts for the Atlanta Dream, including a 6-0 start to the season (best start in franchise history), an Eastern Conference Semifinals win over the No. 1 seeded Washington Mystics (first time Atlanta advanced past the first round) and an Eastern Conference title (you guessed it � first time since the team�s 2008 inception). Now in a best-of-five series against the Storm, Atlanta will aim to produce another milestone in franchise and league history, as the Dream attempts to become the first No. 4 seed to win a championship. The last four-seed to advance to the Finals was the 2001 Charlotte Sting, losing to Los Angeles 2-0 in a best-of-three.

Behind the arsenal of Iziane Castro Marques, Erika de Souza, Sancho Lyttle and 2009 Rookie of the Year Angel McCoughtry, the Dream remained a perfect 4-0 throughout the postseason, knocking off No. 1 seeded Washington in the first round and advancing past the New York Liberty in the Conference Finals. McCoughtry, whose not only emerging as one of the league�s premiere scorers but also Atlanta�s youngest leader, set a WNBA record in Game Two against the Liberty, as she scored 42 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 17-of-21 from the free throw line. The previous record of 41 was set in 2006 by Tamika Whitmore, formerly of the Indiana Fever.

On the other side of the court there�s the Seattle Storm, a team that hardly needs any introduction. After posting a league-best and franchise-best 28-6 regular season record, Seattle plowed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping the Sparks in the first round, followed by the Phoenix Mercury in the second. Three-time MVP Lauren Jackson has played a huge role in Seattle�s postseason success, but perhaps the most memorable event over the first two rounds of play came in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals. With less than three seconds remaining on the clock with the score tied at 88, Sue Bird broke free and drained a three-pointer to put the Storm ahead 91-88 with one more Mercury attempt pending. When Diana Taurasi�s three-pointer banked off the rim and out as the buzzer sounded, the Storm advanced to the Finals for the first time since 2004, the same year Seattle claimed its first and only WNBA title.

Gm 1: at Seattle, Sun., 9/12, 3:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Gm 2: at Seattle, Tues., 9/14, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 3: at Atlanta, Thur., 9/16, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 4*: at Atlanta, Sun., 9/19, 3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 5*: at Seattle, Tues., 9/21, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
When you think of the top-scoring teams in the league, the Atlanta Dream ranks near the top. In fact, Atlanta finished the 2010 regular season averaging 85.4 points per game, second only to the Phoenix Mercury. Adding to the efficiency of Atlanta�s up-tempo offense is the fact that the Dream also finished first overall in rebounds per game with 38.8. That�s to be expected when you have players like de Souza and Lyttle finishing second and fifth overall in the double-doubles category with 15 and 13, respectively. Atlanta�s ability to crash the boards creates second-chance opportunities for a team that has hit 48.3 percent of its shots throughout the postseason.

Even though the Dream touts a highly focused, up-tempo offense, there�s nothing that says the Storm isn�t prepared to counter with its well-disciplined defense. That much is evident from the Western Conference Finals, a series in which the Storm played against a similar style in the run-and-gun Mercury. After averaging 99 points per game against the Silver Stars in the first round, Phoenix was held to just 81 points per outing in the two games against Seattle. The Storm�s defense, led by the versatile Lauren Jackson, held opponents to 73.9 points per game during the regular season, ranking them second overall behind only the Mystics at 73.3. The Storm has displayed a similar dominance over teams in the postseason as well, holding opponents to 73.5 over the span of four games.

No matter where each team ranked heading into the playoffs, they�ve each proved they belong in the WNBA Finals. For the Dream, the challenge comes right from the start, as they open up the first two games on the road in Seattle. During the regular season, the Storm posted a perfect 17-0 record at home in KeyArena and has since extended that to 19-0 with postseason play. However, the Dream should be used to starting a series on the road, as they did just that in both of the earlier rounds and secured home wins before finishing the sweep on their home court. For the Storm, its remarkable season is still just one accomplishment away from bringing hardware home to the city of Seattle.

The first to three wins takes it all.

2010 Regular Season: Seattle 2, Atlanta 0
Some fast facts about the WNBA Finals matchup:
  • Atlanta advances to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history
  • Atlanta is the first team since the 2001 Charlotte Sting to advance to the Finals as a No. 4 seed
  • The first and last time Seattle advanced to the WNBA Finals was when they won the title in 2004
  • Both teams enter the Finals with a 4-0 postseason record
Tuesday, June 1, Key Arena, Seattle, WA: Storm 90, Dream 72 | Box score
Seattle Leaders: Lauren Jackson (32 pts., 10 reb.), Camille Little (15 pts., 3 reb.)
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (16 pts., 5 reb.), Sancho Lyttle (10 pts., 6 reb.)

Tuesday, August 10, Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA: Storm 80, Dream 70 | Box score
Seattle Leaders: Lauren Jackson (14 pts., 8 reb.), Tanisha Wright (14 pts., 7 reb.)
Atlanta Leaders: Angel McCoughtry (16 pts., 4 reb.), Sancho Lyttle (12 pts., 17 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position

Sue Bird, G, Storm
11.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.8 APG
Note: Finished second in the league in assists.
Shalee Lehning, G, Dream
3.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.8 APG
Note: Seventh in the league in assists per game (4.8)
Tanisha Wright, G, Storm
9.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.5 APG
Note: Averaged a career-best in assists.
Iziane Castro Marques, G, Dream
16.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.6 APG
Note: Point-per-game total is a new career high
Swin Cash, F, Storm
13.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 APG
Note: Played in all 34 games for the first time since 2006.
Angel McCoughtry, F, Dream
21.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG
Note: Set a new WNBA playoffs record with 42 points against the Liberty in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals
Camille Little, F, Storm
10.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 APG
Note: Started all 34 games for the second straight season.
Sancho Lyttle, F, Dream
12.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.2 APG
Note: Registered a 20-20 game against the Fever on June 19
Lauren Jackson, C, Storm
20.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.19 BPG
Note: Playing in her first postseason since 2007.
Erika de Souza, C, Dream
12.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.18 BPG
Note: Finished second in the league with 15 double-doubles
Series Info
Game 1: SEA 79, ATL 77: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 2: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 3: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video

Gm 1: SEA 82, PHX 74
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 91, PHX 88
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: SEA 79, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 81, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: PHX 106, SAN 93
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: PHX 92, SAN 73
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 81, NYL 75
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 105, NYL 93
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 95 WAS 90
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 101 WAS 77
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: NYL 85, IND 73
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: IND 75, NYL 67
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 3: NYL 77, IND 74
Box | Recap | Photos