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Fate And Destiny Ultimately Led Minnesota To A Title

When a team finally comes together with all the pieces interlocked to win a championship as the Minnesota Lynx did Friday night completing a 3-0 sweep in Georgia of the Atlanta Dream with a 73-67 victory at Philips Arena to claim the 2011 WNBA title, there are moments in the past to reflect upon over how things began to fall into place.

While Mel is looking backwards, the Lynx are trying to stay in the present even as others are tempted to peek ahead. Writes Tim, WNBA-champion Lynx are looking at a bright future

Looking ahead was not high on the priority list late Friday night as the Minnesota Lynx basked in their three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA championship series at Philips Arena.

And really, why should it?

Celebratory cheers and toasts lasted well into the early morning Saturday in tribute to a whirlwind season of dominance that led to the ending of a 20-year championship drought by major professional sports teams in Minnesota.

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it’s nice that the AP did, too: Women call the shots at WNBA finals

For the first time in WNBA finals history, both teams have women calling the shots as head coaches.Cheryl Reeve led the Minnesota Lynx to a league-best 27-7 record in the regular season, and Marynell Meadors has guided the Atlanta Dream to two straight finals appearances.

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you know it was a kick butt game when the AP reporter gets all descriptive and myth-busting (even though the NYTimes has since edited the initial online version of the game article):

For those who say the women’s game lacks everything that makes the sport great — athleticism, shot-making and competitive fire — Game 1 will not help them make their case. Maya Moore’s sensational reverse layup, a scoop shot that started from clear on the other side of the rim, got the Lynx started on a third-quarter surge that got them back into the game.

On the other end, McCoughtry was simply unstoppable, hitting a incredible array of jumpers from odd angles all over the floor, blocking shots and forcing steals to keep her team from faltering.

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and pull out your reading glasses. From Richard:

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 3: The Bigs – Brunson/McWilliams-Franklin vs. Lyttle/?

Here’s where this series gets really interesting. Despite the strength of their bench, Minnesota have relied heavily on their starting five all season long. That group contains two true post players in rebounding demon Rebekkah Brunson and everyone’s favourite WNBA septuagenarian, Taj McWilliams-Franklin (she’s actually only 40, but the ‘Taj is old’ jokes never get old).

In the second half of the season, Atlanta had a very similar reliance on their starting five, including the quickness and length of Sancho Lyttle at power forward and size and strength of Erika de Souza at center. But when de Souza left to play for Brazil in the FIBA Americas tournament after Game 1 of the Eastern Finals, the Dream went small. Lyttle was generally the only post on the floor, occasionally spelled by backup Alison Bales, and wing Iziane Castro Marques had two outstanding games as de Souza’s replacement in the starting lineup. The speed of the small lineup and Castro Marques’s shooting is essentially what carried the Dream into these Finals. de Souza is expected back in time for Game 2, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how Atlanta approach their lineups and matchups throughout this series. Is their four-perimeter player group too quick for Minnesota to handle? Or will Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin dominate that small lineup in the paint to such an extent that the Dream will be forced back to a more traditional five?

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 4: The Wildcards – Moore vs. Price/Castro Marques

It might seem a little strange to consider the current Rookie of the Year, Minnesota’s second-leading scorer this season and one of the most well-known female basketball players in the USA a ‘wild card’ heading into this series. But it seems fair to me. Maya Moore admitted to some nerves in their opening playoff series against San Antonio, and when the Silver Stars had the temerity to defend her with players far smaller than her like Becky Hammon and Tully Bevilaqua she struggled to take advantage of the mismatch. She was also the primary defender being lit up when Jia Perkins caught fire and led San Antonio to a Game 2 win. But Moore improved as that series went on, then had fun firing away against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. Plus Penny Taylor didn’t have an awful series by accident, and it was Moore defending her for most of the two games.

Mega-Preview Part 5: The Benches

In terms of pure talent, Minnesota would appear to have more in reserve, but they haven’t exactly been proving it for most of the season. Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston and this year’s 4th overall pick in the draft Amber Harris will probably see very little time in this series. Monica Wright may receive some opportunities to impress, especially if Cheryl Reeve tries to counter Atlanta’s small lineup, but she’s struggled to produce in limited chances this season. The bulk of the backup minutes are likely to go to Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair.

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Richard’s (cue the reverb) WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 1: The Floor Generals – Whalen vs. Harding

This year’s WNBA Finals feature two of the best – but two rather different – starting point guards. Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen had the superior regular season. Unusually for a point, she’s strong and physical rather than small and quick. She uses her body and her strength to hold players off when she penetrates, and to finish plays at the basket even through contact.

As with all the best point guards, she’s also a game manager, finding the right player at the right time in half court sets. Typically for Minnesota that means feeding Augustus or Moore on the wing for shots in rhythm, but she also knows when her team needs to be focussing on forcing the ball inside or when they need her to create something herself. Along with Augustus and Moore she’s also been part of an exciting three-pronged fastbreak attack this season, all three capable of leading or finishing the break. She led the league in assists this year, but also put up far and away the best shooting numbers of her career (over 50% from the floor, and over 40% from three-point range, the first time she’s managed either of those feats). She’s Cheryl Reeve’s brain on the floor and she’s had an exceptional season.

Mega-Preview (Cue more reverb) Part 2: The Scorers – Augustus vs. McCoughtry

As with the point guards, the leading scorers for this year’s WNBA Finalists are both very effective, but in very different ways. After all her injury troubles, Seimone Augustus has been back to something very close to her best this season for Minnesota. She may not be quite as quick as she once was, but her game was never based around being the fastest player on the floor. It’s all about that pretty jump shot, and her ability to rise up and hit it at a moment’s notice from anywhere on the floor. For someone who takes the vast majority of her shots from mid-range or deeper, shooting over 50% from the floor this season is a remarkable achievement. She was also over 40% from three-point range, a number that McCoughtry probably doesn’t even reach in her dreams. Much of Minnesota’s offense revolves around running Augustus off baseline cuts and multiple screens to create shooting opportunities for her, and with accuracy like that you can see why. She’s simply one of the greatest shooters the women’s game has ever seen.

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Lynx Sell Out Lower Bowl of Target Center for WNBA Finals Opener

and

Hip Hop Music Legends “The Sugarhill Gang” to Perform at Halftime of Sunday’s WNBA Finals Game 1

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