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…Tamika is pulling a Lin Dunn: Catchings’ greatest legacy is making sure she’s replaceable

It’s one thing to leave your mark on a team and a sport. It’s another to leave a piece of yourself that stays on after you’re gone.

And regardless of how corny or cliché it might sound, that is exactly what Indiana forward Tamika Catchings is doing. She has been forthright about how much time is still on the clock. The curtains will close on her playing career next year, whenever the 2016 WNBA season finishes for the Fever.

Kent: Lynx and Fever down to a single game for WNBA title – Four Lynx veterans will try to win third title together 

Perhaps because the emotions would become too strong, the Lynx tried hard to avoid the bigger picture and instead focused on the game Tuesday.

All necessary, of course. Wednesday night at Target Center the Lynx will play the Indiana Fever in Game 5 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals, the ultimate game in a series between two talented, determined teams that are separated by a mere three points after 160 minutes.

So the focus needs to be playing in the moment rather than leaving a legacy.

Lynx inching close to hard to come by dynasty

I wrote a pile of utter garbage several years ago, proclaiming that the San Antonio Spurs’ time as a perennial NBA playoff team and title contender was coming to a close. The key players were getting old, the argument went. All good things come to an end at some point, and this long Spurs dynasty was one of them.

A search for this misguided opinion has yielded no results; for whatever reason the Internet does not want me to find my old thoughts. But it was written. And it won’t be written here again about the Lynx.

Game 5 preview: Indiana at Lynx

AP’s Jon K: 

Before the Indiana Fever embarked on their 11th consecutive trip to the WNBA playoffs, veteran star Tamika Catchings handed out a journal to every one of her teammates.

The message was simple: For as routine as these trips have come for the Fever, it was so important to soak up the opportunities because you never know when they will present themselves again. The journals were for the players to document their journey.

.com: Lynx, Fever Well Aware Of Task That Lies Ahead In Game 5

The stage is set, the final adjustments have been made and the WNBA is set to crown a champion Wednesday night (8PM ET, ESPN 2). And the enormity of the situation is something that is not lost on the two teams fighting for WNBA glory.

Swish Appeal: Extensive WNBA Finals Game 5 Preview: Last woman standing

Scoggins: With two deep teams, Lynx-Fever compelling to watch

The Indiana Fever concluded their morning workout before Game 4 of the WNBA Finals with a contest. A half-court shooting contest that left players howling with laughter as they trash talked one another.

The Lynx contingent arrived on the court a few minutes later. Players exchanged their usual banter as they conducted interviews.

The mood around both teams could be best described as loose and relaxed, which would make sense if the occasion was a summer pickup game.

There was no hint of the tension that’s enwrapped their championship series.

Letters to the Star Tribune: Readers Write (Oct. 14): Minnesota Lynx gear, health insurance, Grand Avenue parking, debates on cable TV

My wife and I recently bought Minnesota Lynx tickets to their first playoff finals game against the Indiana Fever. We planned to show our support by wearing Lynx T-shirts to the game. The Lynx are Minnesota’s most successful professional team, having won two championships in the past five years and nearing a potential third, so how difficult could it be to buy some Lynx merchandise? Turns out, very difficult.

Oh, and… watch out, Lynx & Fever players! Cali’s got her “Under Armour Next” video submission ready!

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with Phoenix knocking of Minnesota’s biggest challenger, and Indiana doing the same for Atlanta. Guess everybody will be nice and rested.

I’m looking forward to these games, especially to see how the battle in the paint plays out… tho Jayda is looking for something different: the battle No-Longer Big Easters: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

From Mechelle: Two motivated clubs meet for title

Sorry, Minnesota Lynx, you still don’t get to be the underdog. It’s your third consecutive year in the WNBA Finals, and you’re the favorite again. You wore that mantle well in 2011, but the championship slipped away from you last year.

**

Sorry, Atlanta Dream, but this is your third trip in the past four years to the WNBA Finals, and you are going to feel underestimated again. The Lynx had a 26-8 regular-season record to your 17-17. They had three players with MVP-like numbers this year (Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus); you had one (Angel McCoughtry).

From Michelle: Lynx, Dream meet again in Finals

Key to the series

Protecting the home court. Atlanta has to win at least once in Minnesota if it wants to win this series. That’s no easy task considering the Lynx’s 17-2 record at home this season. In two playoff wins in Minnesota so far, the Lynx’s average margin of victory is 19.5 points.

The Dream have won only two road games since June 23, winning at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals and at Indiana on Sunday. But Atlanta has been a dismal team away from its home court for most of the year, and that doesn’t bode well.

Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press talks pre-game prep: Before WNBA finals comes 10 hours of ‘Grand Theft Auto’

The victory in the best-of-three Western Conference finals not only gave the Lynx a berth in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, it also earned players a 48-hour furlough from coach Cheryl Reeve.

Augustus had two things in mind upon returning home: a massage and getting her fingers warmed up for a team “Grand Theft Auto” video game party.

Don’t let the frivolity give you the wrong impression, though. Nathan Meacham reassures fans of Los Lynx that Minnesota’s not expecting a 2011 Finals rerun with Dream

It’s back to the WNBA Finals for the Minnesota Lynx, who will be facing the same opponent they defeated in 2011, but that doesn’t mean there are many similarities.

“This team is really different than the team in 2011,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Each of their journeys has been very different. This group wants to get this team’s championship to cap off this journey.”

Nate offers up Three keys for the Atlanta Dream in the 2013 WNBA Finals

During his introduction to the Atlanta Dream’s game against the Minnesota Lynx on August 20, broadcaster Bob Rathbun commented, “You can game plan for the stars in this league defensively, but the reason they’re stars is that they can come through despite all the defensive pressure. That’s certainly the case with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Minnesota’s Maya Moore.”

And of course you can probably apply the same reasoning to Seimone Augustus.

Yet the thing that fans often forget when considering the defensive end of the ball is that defense is never entirely a one-on-one effort – it’s always a 5-on-5 effort. Conveniently, examples of what the Dream need to do to succeed showed up within the first four minutes of their 88-73 win in late August.

The Card Chronicle takes notice: McCoughtry Seeking Elusive First WNBA Championship

It’s been nearly five years since Angel McCoughtry left Louisville, and since then she’s accomplished just about every professional goal imaginable. Except one.

McCoughtry will go for her first WNBA title when the Atlanta Dream begin play in the WNBA Finals on Sunday at Minnesota. The Dream have played in the finals in three of the last four years, but were swept in both of their previous appearances, including in 2011 against Minnesota.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered, so they asked Doug to chime in (and don’t even ask him to make it Dream-centric): Minnesota Lynx face Atlanta Dream in WNBA finals

Ever since the Minnesota Lynx lost in the WNBA finals last year, they’ve been focused on getting back there.

Now they are three wins away from a second championship in three seasons, facing a team they swept two years ago to earn the franchise’s first title.

“We’re a very hungry, determined group of women,” said Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus. “All year we’ve talked about holding our goal and destiny in our hands. We have another chance at a title after not ending last season the way we wanted to.”

Clay writes his WNBA Finals preview: Will Atlanta live the Dream? Or will Minnesota erase last year’s nightmare?

The WNBA would have much preferred one of the Three to See, or Candace Parker and company, in the Finals. The league can certainly deal with Minnesota, with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, but 17-17 Atlanta, two-time losers in the Finals, isn’t exactly the dream opponent (sorry).

The positives are that the Dream love to run, so there should be lots of points, and Angel McCoughtry could melt down in SportsCenter-worthy fashion at any moment.

In the end, though, the Lynx are clearly better, and an Atlanta win in this series would count as the biggest Finals’ upset in league history.

Jayda also offers up some exit interviews: Nancy Darsch will not return to Seattle

Speaking of exit interviews, Mark Ambrogi at the Indy Star says Indiana Fever looking to reload for 2014 after getting swept in Eastern Conference finals

Good news for the Chicago: Sky owner Michael Alter all-in (and for those who say the League needs to avoid being “a movement”:

What Alter did not see coming but has figured out, he said, is that “this league is still about a cultural transformation, getting people [to relate to and follow] women and women athletes. And we still have a long way to go, that’s just a fact.”

He also included the phenomenon of women reporters eschewing what some, like himself, may view as a responsibility to champion women’s sports in favor of pursuing the bigger (men’s) beats.

“It’s the same thing with the corporate battle,” he said. “Men are not as comfortable saying, ‘We should do this.’ They don’t want to be the one to make the argument convincing everyone to do it. They’ll support if, but they want someone else to be the flag bearer.”

Simply put, Alter said, that attitude took him by surprise.

Mystery AP person writes: Mercury fall short of expectations, but coaching change brings strong finish

“It was a strange year, it was a little weird,” Taurasi said. “When things were not going our way through the season we worked through it. When they made the coaching change, it could have easily been a foregone season. But we stuck with it. I’m happy the way we fought throughout the season.”

In college news:

Might be an idiot: UWGB women’s basketball: Zastrow pleads not guilty to DUI charge

Might be in trouble: Georgetown places women’s basketball coach Keith Brown on leave following complaints

Georgetown has placed women’s basketball Coach Keith Brown on administrative leave, along with assistant coach Tim Valentine, following complaints of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language.

The concerns were raised by players on the eve of Brown’s second season as head coach of the Hoyas and were first reported Monday night by WJLA (Channel 7). Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications, Stacy Kerr, confirmed the circumstances that led to the university’s actions in a statement.

Awful news, reminding us how hard it can be to speak up for oneself: Maryland man arrested for assault of Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker

A Maryland man has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault in a case that involves Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker.  The No. 12 ranked 2013 recruit surprised the Lady Vols’ staff in July when she did not report to campus as scheduled, instead sending an email citing unspecified “personal reasons.”

Full Court has confirmed a police report and obtained court documents indicating that officers from the Franklin precinct of the Baltimore Police Department arrested Joshua Anthony Gerrard on Wednesday, July 25, at his home in Owings Mills, Md., on charges of second-degree assault. Gerrard remained in custody overnight and was released the following day on $50,000 bail. A trial date has been set for Feb. 12, 2014.

In high school news:

Definitely an idiot: Ex-basketball coach gets probation over play devised to hurt student heckler

Could be an eye-opener: High school girls’ hoops seeks officials

Nice to be recognized: Dover honors 2 for legendary commitment to students, community

During the introduction for Fisk the announcer read, “Marge Fisk, a graduate of DHS, Class of 1950, and the University of New Hampshire Class of 1954, came back to Dover High in the fall of 1970. Married to husband Bill and raising four children, Marge began the awesome task of revamping the girl’s Phys Ed. Department. With determination, organization and a little bit of magic she began putting together a solid sports program and some of the best girl’s basketball and field hockey teams in the state.” 

In 1975, the field hockey team won the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for Field Hockey Class AA Championships under Fisk’s leadership. In 1977, an undefeated team coached by Fisk won the Girls Basketball State Championship.

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but some will not be there to play.

Earlier, it was Baylor freshman Destiny Brown being dismissed for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Now it’s Nebraska’s turn: Sophomore guard Rebecca Woodberry has been removed from the team for a violation of team rules.

And from Graham (welcome back to women’s basketball!) this disconcerting news: Delle Donne deals with Lyme flare-up – Delaware senior nowhere near 100 percent in recurrence of disease

With the start of the regular season just a week away, Delle Donne told espnW she is experiencing a recurrence of symptoms of Lyme disease, the same illness that forced her out of the lineup for 12 games during the 2010-11 season.

Although she experienced sporadic symptoms last season and remained on medication for the disease, she was for the most part healthy as a junior. The results were otherworldly, one of the greatest statistical seasons on record. She averaged 28.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field, 41 percent from the 3-point line and 89 percent from the free throw line, turning over the ball fewer than two times per game.

But when full practices began several weeks ago, Delle Donne felt the return of familiar symptoms, which can include extreme fatigue, migraine-like headaches and anything from mild to debilitating pain in muscles and joints (hold your arms out in front of you for a few seconds; now imagine not having the strength to keep them there).

La di dah: Georgia women’s basketball team unconcerned with high preseason ranking

James has the rest of his list: The Top 100 Programs in Division I women’s college basketball: #11-25 and the Top 100 Programs in Division One women’s college basketball:  #1-10. He also offers up: How do basketball recruits make their decisions?

In WNBA news, congrats to Former UConn, WNBA basketball player Rebecca Lobo who is to receive Westfield Athenaeum distinguished speaker honor

From Israel, Lior catches January Fever

To be completely honest, there aren’t a lot of reasons to get excited over the new division I women’s basketball season in Israel. If we ignore last year’s exciting playoffs, the regular season itself had many tough to watch games. But as I sat in my living room in the middle of the night and watched the Indiana Fever win their first WNBA title in the sold out Bankers Life Fieldhouse, I got goosebumps. The fact that their starting PG, Briann January, will play here in Israel this season is definitely a reason to get off the couch and go see her live in action.

Where’s Armintie Price? At the Fifth Annual Special Needs Fall Festival held in Hampton.

From Dime Magazine: One Of The WNBA’s Shortest Players (Ivory) Is Making A Huge Difference Off The Court

Yes, Nate, “During the WNBA’s long off-season, it’s never too late for WNBA Finals analysis”: Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith on the WNBA Finals: ‘The Lynx shouldn’t have lost.’

He also ponders What might limit a WNBA Draft prospect’s success?

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate the value of statistics and more specifically the value of looking at the right statistics is to look back at the track record of success of volume shooters in both the NBA and WNBA draft.

And really we’re not talking about the mysterious advanced statistical sorcery of magic wizards, but simple things like the percentage of attempted shots a player makes.

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sure interfere with your basketball watching and bloggin’.

Just sayin’.

That being said, I was glad I caught the second game between Minny and Indy. I mean, then I’d have missed Cheryl Reeve’s audition for Nike’s next “Doesn’t mean I can’t get all fired up” video. I’d rate her jacket fling a 8.932. Big, bad Bill woulda been proud. Said Mechelle:

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is from Philadelphia, and of course she’s an Eagles fan. Even more specifically, she admires their longtime coach.

“I’m a huge, huge Andy Reid person,” Reeve said before Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. “When I look at other coaches, I look at temperament, where they are in their career, how they got there, and their ability to handle players. That’s probably the thing I look at most.”

Reeve likes the straightforward, no-nonsense way that Reid deals with things … although she’s never one to give you the bland monotone like he does. She has a very analytical mind, but she knows how to use emotion in coaching, too.

And if that also means tossing a garment every now and again, so be it.

Coach Dunn seemed unimpressed: WNBA Finals heat up, Fever coach criticizes counterpart after fiery Lynx tie series at 1-1

Dunn said she thought Reeve should have been ejected because the wildest part of the tantrum came after the technical.

“I guess the thing that concerns me is that after she got her first technical, then she proceeded to take her jacket off, throw her jacket,” Dunn said. “In my opinion, that should have been reason for a second technical and removal, and they (the officials) did not do that, and of course, she was able to incite the crowd.

Probably right, if you’re being honest (as Lobo was).

Taj said the Lynx needed to return to strengths: running and rebounding and they did Postgame blog: Lynx pummel Indiana on boards. Larkins disappeared, and the Lynx used a record-setting rebounding to win Game Two.

Said Richard: Rebounding and jacket-tossing help fire Lynx to tie up Finals

After Indiana stole Game 1 of the WNBA Finals in Minnesota on Sunday, the Lynx had their backs against the wall last night. You can afford to drop one game at home, but if they went down 2-0 before heading back to Indiana for the next two games (if two were even necessary), Minnesota would’ve become huge outsiders to repeat as champions. They needed this one, but it was going to take a better performance than they produced three nights earlier to pull it off. The Fever would’ve settled for a split of the opening two games if you’d offered it to them before the series began, but once you take the first you get greedy. They’d beaten Minnesota on their own floor once already; why not twice?

The game benefited from some delays in other sports: Lynx-Indiana series getting attention

Wednesday’s game between the Lynx and Indiana on ESPN averaged 778,000 viewers and a 0.6 rating. Not much by NFL standards, but it was the most viewed game in the WNBA Finals on ESPN since the defunct Houston Comets played Los Angeles in 1999. (WHB note: We, of course, know it was the Lib Houston played in the 1999 Finals)

And, if coach Lin Dunn keep spewing, the ratings will be better for Game 3 tonight.

Now, it’s time for game three. The problem is the Indiana Fever are hobbling after rough Game 2 of WNBA Finals. From Michelle Smith: Physical Finals shift to Indiana.

The Star shows their support: Go, Fever! We believe in you

The Indiana Fever, who play the Minnesota Lynx tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, stand only two victories away from their first WNBA championship.

But regardless of what takes place on the court for the remainder of the series, the Fever, for more than a decade, have been outstanding representatives of and partners with this community.

Swish Appeal has a WNBA Finals open thread: Lynx try to even score

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it was Minny who actually ended up “down one.”

Catch was Catch, Larkins was on a mission (from Nate: Erlana Larkins’ record-tying rebounding powers Indiana over Minnesota in Game One of WNBA Finals), and Erin was busy showing Australia that, yes, they made a mistake. Says the Indy Star’s Erika D. Smith: With a basketball team this good, it’s time to get the Fever, Indy.

From Mechelle:

The Indiana Fever players sort of kept hoping against hope that Katie Douglas might show up. You know, some kind of medical-miracle thing that could make a sprained, swollen ankle well again. But they certainly weren’t counting on it.

“It wasn’t sounding good, so we continued our preparation without her,” Fever guard Briann January said. “It’s one of those things where we figured out our game plan where if we’d had her, that’s great. But if we don’t, we’re ready.”

Don’t know if Minny actually did end up with their panties in a twist (bless your heart, Lin Dunn!), but they sure were outta sorts. I imagine Coach C has all sorts of interesting things to say to her team, and that Game 2 will be a lesson of sorts. Catch up with WNBAlien’s Mega Preview.

On a side note: If only our college coaches had the courage of Seimone Augustus: Lynx star Augustus chides amendment

Seimone Augustus has always preferred to stay out of the public eye even as her basketball career has taken her to the heights of an Olympic gold medal and a WNBA championship.

With her adopted home state of Minnesota considering a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, the Lynx star is now becoming a vocal proponent of equal rights for gays.

After all, she has her own wedding coming up, to longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.

I repeat: Anyone who says *women’s* sports isn’t political isn’t paying attention.

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Seimone doesn’t pull that… but there is a question to be answered. And she says it has been: Augustus: Car air freshener incident resolved

From Michelle Smith: Jessica Adair keeps dream alive

Jessica Adair is on the court in Los Angeles, working with a Minnesota Lynx assistant coach on her post moves about 90 minutes before tipoff against the Los Angeles Sparks.

She is wearing full sweats, a long-sleeved Lynx T-shirt and making her way deftly around the floor. Through layups, short jumpers and mid-range shots, she moves with ease and grace — even lightness.

That is not something she could always claim.

From Nate: How Minnesota escaped the Western Conference playoffs and returned to the WNBA Finals and The top five WNBA rookies: Who was snubbed from the 2012 All-Rookie Team. I guess Coach K doesn’t count, huh?

On the game tomorrow:

From the Courant: Katie Douglas Stands In Sun’s Path

From the Indy Star: Win or go home: Fever will put it all on the line in Game 3

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Feeling lost? Out of sorts?

Suddenly have a whole lot of extra time on your hands?

Welcome to the “between season” time.

So, here’s a little flashback to distract you.

Lynx Celebrated with WNBA Championship Parade

The WNBA is a niche league, but the success of the Lynx spread to the mainstream in a market where the big-time sports teams have struggled badly lately. The Lynx were happy to pick up the slack.

As you revisit the Finals highlights, revel in the fact that TV ratings for Lynx kept climbing in WNBA Finals.

There’s more on the victoy parade and the Lynx visit to the Vikings. Tim Hennagir says in his opinion column Writer’s Block: Basketball title a welcome change of sporting pace.

The Whalen crew is enjoying that championship feeling.

Start truly assessing the new Prez’s potential as she writes: The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of (The Prez also gets honored by Black Girls Rock!)

Bettor.com (which has been doing nice job of covering the league) has:

WNBA Playoffs 2011 – Top ten games of the post season: Part 1

Top ten games of the post season: Part 2

Top ten games of the post season: Part 3

WNBA Playoffs 2011 – Top ten games of the post season: Part 4

WNBA Playoffs 2011 – Top ten games of the post season: Part 5

Swish Appeal is doing some “Season in Review” work:

Pilight has Ranking the Lynxn and James Bowman has Ranking the Lynx, Part II

Nate has the 2011 WNBA Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus: Who Were The Top Offensive & Defensive Performers? as well as Plus-Minus: A Primer & The Value Of Four-Year WNBA Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM)

Nate also offers up his 2011 WNBA “All-Playoff” Team: Which Players Did The Most For Their Teams In The Post-Season?

There’s even more from Nate: The Victor And The Vanquished

In winning a championship after establishing themselves as the class of the league within their first few games, the Minnesota Lynx’ triumph as 2011 WNBA champions seems obvious as already written in a piece entitled “Eschewing Eschaton” at SB Nation’s Canis Hoopus.

“If you love basketball, you know these stories; you know these players.  They don’t need to be dressed up in any way, shape or form.” 

Although I would certainly agree that the team’s talent was glaring for some time – and might have written something to that effect once or twice – it’s also obvious that it eluded a number of WNBA analysts or fans alike even as the team began to hit a dominant stride mid-season. And really, “eluded” is probably generous – people were literally making up reasons that this team would lose.

Finally, Mechelle writes: Augustus, Lynx soaking up success – But what’s next for 2011 champ and rest of league, and how will Olympics affect them?

There are a lot of reasons why the Lynx became a championship team this season, and plenty of credit should go around. But one of the biggest factors was that Augustus did everything that a mature professional does to contribute to the overall success of her teammates.

Moore said, “Players who are confident in who they are will encourage people around them. That’s how you become MVP of the Finals: You make everybody better. Seimone is one of those players.

“It was so rewarding for all of us to see her play so well, to see her humility and unselfishness in making sure our team got where it needed to go. Whether she had to score 36 or play lock-down defense or get someone else fired up. She was an emotional leader for us this year. That’s something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from her, but it was amazing to watch her do that.”

Hopefully all this will tide you over until the pre-season stories start flowing out of the NCAA ranks and you start sneaking in to the gym to watch practices….

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Where do they sit?

From Michael Rand at the Star Tribune: Lynx rank among best in state history

The bouquets and platitudes for the WNBA champion Lynx have been numerous and well-earned. Now, though, it’s time to raise things up another level and ask this question:

Are the 2011 Lynx the most dominant team in Minnesota sports history? It’s one of those questions that has no perfect answer. Comparing different sports, leagues and eras is nearly impossible because of all the variables at play. Yet we try.

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Missed Mechelle’s chat

(she’s in Atlanta):

Kevin: The same officiating crew (Blauch, Simpson, Walker) that did Wednesday’s whistle-fest also did Game 3 of last year’s finals, where we got a relatively paltry 46 fouls and 56 free throws. Given that experience, why couldn’t Marynell Meadors and staff get the Dream to adjust to how the game was being called before the fouls and free throws reached the record levels achieved in the 4th quarter?

Mechelle Voepel: I think sometimes coaches and teams get so into the mindset “We’re getting hosed!” that they almost can’t think of anything else. It was all the Dream talked about after the game. At some point in games, you really do have to say, “We have to figure out a way around this.” Which I know is easier said than done.

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NBA Finals: The atomic bond of Angel McCoughtry

Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry will rarely shy away from a press opportunity. The leading scorer in the 2011 playoffs, who broke her own record for most points in a WNBA Finals game with 38 in game 2, draws attention and scrutiny from fans for her on-court persona. No matter what criticism is fired at her direction, McCoughtry would not earn a second straight opportunity to win a title without the chemistry she developed with teammates, particularly starting point guard Lindsey Harding. Harding, who was traded to Atlanta prior to the 2011 season, offers a lens rarely seen in press coverage that demonstrates the strong bond between the two. Watch the video to learn more.

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I sure want this series to go five.

Perhaps a big crowdwill help them into the history books. From Mechelle: Atlanta Dream face must-win situation – Atlanta trying to become first team to win WNBA title after being down 0-2

It’s not uncommon for teams to complain about officiating after losses, but Atlanta was really steamed after a 101-95 defeat at Minnesota on Wednesday. The Lynx attempted 46 free throws and made 38, which were both records for a WNBA Finals game.

“Not to say they were wrong,” Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said of the officials, “but there were a lot of things that I disagreed with.”

And if that doesn’t make you chuckle at its half-hearted attempt at diplomacy, you’re probably a Dream fan too irritated to find humor in anything. Which is understandable. In their five WNBA Finals games, including 2010, the Dream have lost by totals of two, three, three, 14 and six points.

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they did not rest: Lynx host clinic for kids hours after grueling Game 1

Tired beat writers filed into the Target Center late Monday morning with coffee in hand. It was like they never left; the Minnesota Lynx had just wrapped up an intense and grueling game one of the WNBA finals just 15 hours before.

The writers got another glimpse of what this team is all about. Five star players – Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin – arrived shortly after the writers. They were all bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to give a basketball clinic to 90 middle school students to promote healthy and active lifestyles.

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Swish Appeal. (Yes, Nate did finally cave and make a prediction.)

2011 WNBA Finals Series Preview: Key Players, Stats, and A Prediction

The 2011 WNBA Finals might be the toughest to predict in some time.

As well as the Atlanta Dream have been playing in the latter part of the season and through the playoffs, we can hardly say for sure that they’re done peaking, particularly with center Erika de Souza expected back some time during the Finals. And even if Iziane Castro Marques doesn’t continue scoring the way she did in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve been so impressive adjusting to circumstances that it’s hard to know what might stop them consistently.

And then there’s the Minnesota Lynx, who just have the league’s best record and methodically eliminated the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals.

So who will win the series?

2011 WNBA Finals: Rebekkah Brunson Leads Minnesota Lynx to 88-74 Game 1 Win

Minnesota Lynx Once Again Show Off Their Impressive Balance In Game 1 Of The 2011 WNBA Finals

And I know who should perform at halftime next game.

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Mayors Of Minneapolis, Atlanta Bet On WNBA Finals

At MPR: As championship series nears, Whalen says Lynx season has been memorable

Whelan (sic) acknowledges that unlike male NBA players, there’s no big bonus or salary increase in her future if the Lynx win the finals. She says the chance to be a champion, and to forever have the right to say that the team won, is enough.

“We’re happy to still be coming in, going to practice, being around each other, it’s just a fun group to be around.”

From KARE: Finals-bound Lynx at height of popularity; still reaching for profitability

Minnesota’s other professional sports teams had or are having losing seasons. But the Lynx are enjoying new-found attention, and players who labored in near-obscurity have become celebrities. Forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin is in her 13th season with the WNBA and says only now is she stopped on the street by excited fans.

“This is my first WNBA city where I’ve had those kind of crazy rabid fans, and I’m so excited for this game, for them to come out,” she said. “It’s going to be packed and loud and exciting, and it’s what the WNBA finals are supposed to be.

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Lynx to Host Block Party Prior to Game 1 of 2011 WNBA Finals

From Crossover Chronicles:

This is going to be a competitive series with the players going at each other at the highest level.

But the point is these WNBA Finals are everything the NBA is not.

We see incredibly balanced scoring and deft passing and fewer one-on-one isolations that many criticize the NBA for. These are not players playing for greed or just showing up for a paycheck. Many of them play year-round in Europe during the WNBA’s offseason and many get paid more for those efforts than they do in the WNBA. Playing in the WNBA is purely for the competition of playing in the best overall league in the world.

What everyone complains about players in the NBA, these players seem to defy.

Michelle and Mechelle lay out The best of the WNBA’s best

As the WNBA celebrates its 15th anniversary and closes in on crowning its 15th champion, we debate how the 14 former champions stack up. And of course, SportsNation wants you to rank the teams, too.

Pat Borzi writes: Jessica Adair, Candice Wiggins bring punch

One dances after Minnesota Lynx home victories, the other walks to the locker room. One is a former Wade Trophy winner and first-round pick, the other a third-rounder from a small school in Washington, D.C., who was cut at her first two WNBA training camps.

Guard Candice Wiggins brings flash and a Stanford pedigree to the Minnesota Lynx, while center/forward Jessica Adair showed up at training camp as an unknown just hoping to earn a uniform. Both have turned into productive bench players for the Lynx and are possible X factors in the WNBA Finals (versus the Atlanta Dream) that begin Sunday at the Target Center.

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The crew covering the Finals is announced:

“The ESPN family of networks has locked in plans to cover the WNBA Finals, which will feature the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx in a best-of-five series. Games begin on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 8:30p on ESPN and ESPN3 before shifting to ESPN2 and ESPN3 for the remainder of the series. Pam Ward will call Game 1 with analyst Rebecca Lobo and reporter Heather Cox. Terry Gannon will take over the remainder of the play-by-play duties in the five-game series with Lobo and Cox. Programming will feature coaches and officials wearing live microphones, an EStrator telestrator system and a new open for the WNBA Finals on ESPN/ESPN2 that will feature moments from the first 15 years of the WNBA Finals.”

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and Angel was Moriarty?

From the AP report:

Angel McCoughtry embraced her role as villain, constantly taunting Indiana’s fans while carrying her team to the WNBA finals.

Meanwhile, Indiana can only imagine “what might have been.” From the Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz: Catchings plays tough, but not that well

Tamika Catchings sat alone at her corner locker stall, a distant look in her eye, her season, the Indiana Fever’s season, finished for the winter.

“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “Maybe me playing, maybe I hurt us more than I helped us.”

She paused.

“I don’t know.”

From Mechelle: Adversity, injury strike Catchings again – Fever star scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting, with five boards, in 24 minutes

Tamika Catchings has been through this before. Wow, has she ever.

Nate writes: Atlanta Dream, Minnesota Lynx Have Both Improved Since Regular Season Series

Well, that was quite a statement the Atlanta Dream made tonight.

With their 83-67 rout of the Indiana Fever in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Dream advanced to their second consecutive WNBA Finals.

Somebody will get a franchise-first championship and have a compelling story to go along with it.

And while the Lynx are probably a reasonable favorite at this point, it’s hard anoint them champions just yet.

Of the upcoming Finals, one Michelle writes Atlanta takes aim at league giant in Lynx, and the other Mechelle writes: Dream, Lynx seek first title – From trio of MVP-worthy players to athletic rosters, Finals packed with star power

…the Dream’s mission is the same as it was last year: Beat the team that had the best record in the regular season. Atlanta couldn’t do it in 2010, getting swept by Seattle in three very close games. Can the Dream do it this time?

“We’ve got to find a way,” Dream star Angel McCoughtry said Tuesday after Atlanta’s 83-67 Game 3 victory over Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals. “We are used to having obstacles in our way, bumps in the road. We’re going to keep on driving.”

Over at nba.com, Shaun Powell writes: Patience and perseverance pay off for Finals-bound Lynx

It’s quite possible that, of all the slights and insults hurled at the Timberwolves lately, “playing like females” probably was uttered or tweeted once or twice at some point. Although right now, that would be high praise, and maybe even a goal, for the No. 2 professional basketball team in town.

As for the No. 1 team? That’s the Lynx, who are giving the Twin Cities a type of team they haven’t seen since George Mikan laced up Converse hi-tops.

Jeff Fecke at the Twin Cities Daily Planet writes: A Minnesota team that wins: No, this is not an oxymoron

…we’ve seen Vikings teams go 15-1 and come up short, seen the Timberwolves roll to the best record in the NBA and come up short. That scarred part of the Minnesota sports fan’s soul had to expect disaster (and still does, in the Finals). But for once, a Minnesota team had a chance to get to the championship, and took it. The Lynx will play for the WNBA title. They’ve given themselves a shot. And for victory-starved Minnesota sports fans, it’s about damn time.

BTW: Wolves president, new coach donate 2,000 tickets to WNBA finals

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Ten Moments from 2010 (Maybe the new prez can figure out how to tag their articles so it gets picked up by google or yahoo alerts…)

Below is a collection of 10 great moments from the 2010 season, starting with the WNBA Draft and ending with the WNBA Finals, in chronological order.

Since the time frame is centered inside that window, a few notable items were left on the cutting room floor that I felt were still worthy of a mention since they happened in 2010, even if they didn’t happen during the season. For example, the three-team, five-player trade back on March 30th that sent Candice Dupree to Phoenix, Cappie Pondexter to New York and Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld to Chicago was no doubt a significant moment in 2010, especially since it was big enough to turn the Liberty into serious contenders in the East after all was said and done.

To a lesser degree, another one that was left outside that time frame was Marion Jones signing a training camp contract with the Shock back on March 10th. Granted Tulsa struggled in its first season, but it’s hard to argue against the degree of excitement and hype surrounding Jones through camp and into her first game with the Shock.

With that said, here’s to a great season in 2010. Have a safe and happy New Year, and Expect Great in 2011.

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Bird and Jackson a winning combination – Point guard, center establish their place in Seattle sports and women’s hoop histories

They just won the WNBA championship for Seattle. And like most great duos, they are a study in complementary contrasts. Lauren Jackson, the 6-foot-5 center. Sue Bird, the 5-9 point guard.

The Australian with the light-colored, rather distant eyes that don’t seem to want to let in too many outsiders. The American with the dark, observant eyes that magnetically draw everyone to her.

Both women are quite intelligent. But Jackson says she never was a very good student. Bird chased perfection in grades, just like she has in everything else.

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Clay asks, Perfect Storm? Is Seattle the best WNBA team ever?

Remembering that it’s not about how much, but whether, the Seattle Storm staked a serious claim to being the best WNBA team ever this summer.

From the KomoNews: Storm fans give raucous welcome home for WNBA champs

One day after sweeping the Atlanta Dream to win their second WNBA championship, the Seattle Storm arrived back in Seattle in style.

The team arrived at Sea-Tac Airport just before 2 p.m. to a raucous crowd welcoming the champs back home.

From the Ballard News Tribune: Zoo celebrates Storm championship with discount admission

The Seattle Storm beat the Atlanta Dream Sept. 16 to sweep the WNBA Championships and bring home its second championship trophy. The Woodland Park Zoo is saluting the Storm and its fans with a weekend of discount admission.

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The Gazette picks up the AP article by Charles Odum: Weary Dream face 2-0 deficit in WNBA finals

The Atlanta Dream have no time to waste after two close losses to the Seattle Storm in the WNBA finals.

Sleep can wait.

Jayda says Atlanta hopes the extra rest pays off:

“The logic behind taking that redeye was we don’t usually calm down after a game anyway,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. “We might as well get on the flight and get back to Atlanta, get home and get to our surroundings. I hope it’s going to work out really well for us.

Pierce writes that Meadors hopes Dream rebound to win elusive title

The old coach knows the clock is ticking, and somewhere in the back of her mind has to be the idea that this could be her last and best chance to achieve something that has almost always seemed to elude her.

Mike Allende quotes Lauren in his piece Dream talks big about going home to Atlanta

instead of gleeful excitement over being so close to her second league championship, the three-time league MVP sounded like, well, someone who played for Atlanta.

“At this point, I don’t feel completely confident going to Atlanta,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be very difficult for us trying to get the win there.”

Jayda also writes: Lauren Jackson has something to prove

A near-empty gym is perfect for reflection.

Three-time MVP Lauren Jackson allows herself those moments, especially as her Storm is one game from its second championship in the WNBA franchise’s 11-year history. The difficult path is well marked — five consecutive first-round playoff exits, four different ownership groups, three different coaches, and two season-ending injuries.

But the inner drive for Jackson, a 6-foot-5 forward, is slowly being revealed.

From the Post-Bulletin (MN): A dream season for Miller twins and from Gene Schinzel at the Hutchinson News: Lehning appreciates trip to WNBA finals

Michael Buteau at Bloomberg picks up on a storyline: Women WNBA Owners Create Historic Title Series as Profits Elude Franchises

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Seattle.

Boy, if home court counts for four points, the Storm are VERY happy they have home court. Notes Aaron Lommers at the Heraldnet:

The Atlanta Dream aren’t making it easy on the Seattle Storm.

The KeyArena crowd isn’t making in easy on the Dream.

And LJ’s glad the ‘rents are here. Writes Mechelle:

You might think Lauren Jackson, bruised and scratched up even more than usual after another battle with Atlanta in the WNBA Finals, would just collapse into an exhausted sleep. But she had other plans.

“I’ll be up all night. I’ll go home and watch the game. I’ll have a glass of wine,” Jackson said. “My parents are here, and they’ll cook me food. They’ve been making every meal for me.

“I’m their little baby. I feel stupid saying that, because I’m almost 30 years old, but they do take very good care of me.”

Hey, somebody should.

From Mike Allende at the Olympian: Out-of-sync Seattle relies on late free throws to move one win from WNBA title

If this is the last time the Seattle Storm plays in front of its home fans at KeyArena this season – and it might be – it wasn’t the prettiest way to go out, but it might have been the gutsiest.

Jayda writes that, with the 87-84 win,  the Storm is one win from WNBA title

Hope the last person to leave KeyArena on Tuesday turned off the lights.

The Storm doesn’t plan on coming back — at least not to play.

Nate writes that the Storm Just Make Plays To Win Game Two

Nobody will tell you that the Seattle Storm’s 87-84 win over the Atlanta Dream in KeyArena tonight was an example of how beautiful basketball can be.

“Sometimes, especially in final games of any sort, championship games, it’s never going to be — you can’t expect it to be — pretty,” said Storm point guard Sue Bird, who finished with eight points and four assists. “You’re not going to go out there and win by 20 and everything’s going to be honky-dory; it’s just not going to happen. You gotta grind it out.”

At Fanhouse, Michelle Smith writes the Scrappy Storm on Verge of WNBA Title

The Atlanta Dream got on a red-eye flight early Wednesday to go back home and prepare to defend their home court in the next two games of the WNBA Finals.

That defense better be good, because there’s no room for error.

Looks like the Hawks are stepping up to support the Dream.

Jerry Brewer says the Storm stands at doorstep of greatness

I was at a rockin’ KeyArena last night, and it wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Storm showed its most impressive trait — toughness. You can talk about the team’s dominant record, its three All-Stars (Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and Swin Cash), its depth, its defense and its seemingly unbeatable aura. But, really, the essence is this team is simply that it’s physically and mentally tougher than every other team in the league this season. In a game in which everything was contested, in which a foul could’ve been called every second, the Storm improved to 21-0 at home this season. They’re up 2-0 in this series despite having won by a combined five points. But all that matters is the W.

Steve Kelly says the Seattle Storm shows city still loves good basketball, King5 says the Storm bring out young fans, and at the Seattle Weekly, you can Meet Two of Seattle Storm’s Biggest (And Tonight Happiest) Fans

It’s always  fun to review Jayda’s game thread. And don’t forget to check out the SPM Photo Gallery.

Force 10 is smart:  Storm officials are encouraging fans to gather at designated locations to view Game 3. Jayda knows Where to watch Game 3 of WNBA Finals with Storm fans

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Check out

WNBA Finals Live: Game 2

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Mechelle ponders

Dream line ups and dream cars: You choose

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Q writes: Little Things Mean A Lot: How Unsung Heroes Stepped Up in Game 1

When I saw Seattle Storm forward Camille Little isolated at the top of the key on Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry with less than 30 seconds left and the game tied at 77, I immediately recalled comments about the Dream’s young star from Storm coaches in the previous few days.

“I don’t know if we have that answer right now,” said Storm coach Brian Agler when asked about stopping McCoughtry after Saturday’s practice, echoing the words of assistant coach Nancy Darsch from the day before. “We do have people that are pretty good individual stoppers, but that doesn’t always get it done. So we have to do it more from a team concept than from necessarily a one-on-one situation.

BTW: Now that I’ve discovered this cool little WordPress application that generates “recommended links,” it becomes doubly frustrating when ESPN doesn’t apply links in their articles equitably. Or should that be “doesn’t equitably apply links in their articles…” Where’s my editor!

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In anticipation

of tonight’s game:


An oddly capitalized piece from The DMonline Om assistant in WNBA finals

Ole Miss assistant women’s basketball coach and Atlanta Dream guard Armintie Price began play in the WNBA Finals Sunday against the Seattle Storm, falling 79-77 in Game 1.

Jayda’s got some Monday Dribble – WNBA Finals, techs, and ponytails

Storm PF Lauren Jackson escaped possible suspension in the WNBA Finals on Monday.

Oh, that would have been awkward.

Jayda also wonders if Amped-up fans a key for Storm in WNBA Finals?

Blame KeyArena and amped-up Storm fans for the quick three fouls Swin Cash received in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.

The Storm placed white rally towels on the lower-bowl seats and fans whipped them with more vigor than a chef making meringue. The sight stirred something in Cash, a Pittsburgh Steelers die-hard.

SportsPageMagazine was on hand as the Storm and Jen Azzi at a WNBA Cares event.

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Still dreamin’

From Pierce Huff at the AJC: Confident Dream look to rebound in Game Two of WNBA finals

“The 1991 Bulls played L.A. and lost by two in L.A. in the first game, and then they came back and won the rest of the games in the series,” McCoughtry said. “That’s the story I’m using when I talk to my teammates.”

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(Worth reading for the first line) From  Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk:  Spanish bank BBVA signs $100 million marketing deal with NBA

When you flipped away from NFL Sunday to watch some of the WNBA finals… well, if you had (and you should have to watch Sue Bird drain a free throw line jumper with 2.6 seconds left to give Seattle the win), you would have noticed something:

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Game 1 is over, and I’m thinking 15,000+ Seattle fans are singing A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird. B-b-b-bird, b-bird’s, bird’s the word

Mike Allende, News Tribune: Virtual replay: Bird jumper gives Storm series opener

Aaron Lommers, Herald: Bird hits game-winner as Storm soar

Steve Kelley, Seattle Times: Sue Bird has turned into Ms. September for the Storm

Jayda, Seattle Times: Sue Bird lifts Storm in WNBA Finals opener

Mechelle, ESPN: Bird hits another game winner for Storm

Michelle Smith, Fanhouse Sue Bird the Calm in Seattle Storm

And Mechelle again: Wright complements Bird in backcourt

And yet more from Mechelle: Little comes up huge for Storm

Mike Allende adds: Storm on brink of Seattle rarity – winning a title

So little has gone right in the Seattle sports scene over the last, well, decade, that it’s easy to forget that there actually have been some positives.

Even the NFL football guys were talking about Bird.

But don’t sleep on the Dream. As Nate writes, Storm Win Game One, But Dream Show They Belong

Writes Toby Dybas for the AJC:

A perpetual opening night of almost in the WNBA Finals left Atlanta Dream star Angel McCoughtry with a litany of issues.

Q offers Five Reasons The Atlanta Dream Could Push The Seattle Storm To Five Games

Make sure you check out Chuckarelei’s photos over at SPM.

Oh, and were wondering about those initials that appeared on the jerseys?

And did you catch Clay’s preview at SlamOnline? Are We There Yet?

Over the course of a 34-game regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Seattle Storm have proven themselves the class of the WNBA – but to seal the deal, they have to handle the upstart Atlanta Dream in the best-of-five Finals that begin Sunday.

Will they prove to be the dominant team their record suggests, one of the best in the history of the league (which tipped off in 1997)? Or will they turn out to be one of those what-might-have-been stories while the Dream celebrate an unlikely three-year turnaround from 4-30 to the best women’s team in the world?

There’s more non-game Dream stuff:

Owner Kathy Betty adds strength to Dream team, by Steve Hummer at the AJC

Angel McCoughtry’s Maturation Key Part of Atlanta’s WNBA Title Hopes, by Milton Kent of Fanhouse.

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Cash helps carry Storm to finals – After reinventing herself, former UConn and Shock star is back at the top of her game

Swin Cash laughs and says there are “little pieces of” her kind of spread all over the country. Western Pennsylvania is where she grew up. Connecticut is where she went to college. Detroit is where her WNBA career began, and she still has a home there. Seattle is where she had her pro renaissance. Miami is where she has enjoyed hanging out during some of her offseason time over the past few years.

Wherever she goes, this is always the same: Cash leaves an impact.

Mechelle also takes some time with Duke grad Bales: Back and in best shape of career – Career in medicine awaits, but Bales realized she’s not done playing just yet

Alison Bales knows that if she eventually follows her mother into a career in medicine, she’ll be answering the “Did you used to play basketball?” question endlessly by patients.

But perhaps she won’t mind so much if she’s able to answer, “Yes — and I won a WNBA championship.”

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