If you happen to be crazy enough to add up all the ratings I’ve given both teams in every area presented, Minnesota comes out ahead 87.5 to 83 (out of a possible 100). In fact, the Lynx only lost out in one of the ten categories. So I should be taking Minnesota to win with ease, right? Well it’s not quite that simple.
Both last year and in the last month, Atlanta have shown an impressive ability to step up their game when they’ve had to. They know how to fight, they know how to win, and they know how compete against the best opposition around. If McCoughtry can show up as the leader and scorer that she was for the second half of the regular season – not the ineffective ghost that she opened the playoffs as – she’ll be tough for Minnesota to handle. She’ll also lead the way in one area I didn’t examine separately that Atlanta are likely to dominate – free throw creation. The Dream could well win at least one game in this series purely through a free throw discrepancy that could creep up towards 20. Plus with Minnesota’s reliance on their starting unit, any foul trouble Atlanta can force them into will damage their rhythm and cohesion at both ends of the floor.
However, I can’t help coming back to one noticeable aspect of this year’s Minnesota Lynx that jumps out of multiple advanced statistical categories: they’re this year’s 2010 Seattle Storm. Even before you look at the numbers, the similarities are there. From obvious things like having a core starting five stay healthy all season, supported by one or two useful bench players, to the presence of an elite point guard and a coach whose first word is “defense” when he/she gets out of bed every morning. Then there’s the supreme rebounding numbers, the points per possession stats, the dominant regular season, and the total scoring margin (Minnesota finished +268 this year; Seattle ended last year +269). They may not have the history of the Storm, but in terms of a year-to-year comparison the Lynx are an amazingly close replica. And we all remember how last year’s Finals ended.
At the same time, this Dream squad is potentially better than last year, and the Lynx have looked a little more vulnerable in the playoffs than Seattle seemed in 2010. Plus I’m a neutral, and hoping for as much excitement as possible throughout this series. Therefore:
Minnesota 3-2, after splitting the first two at home, splitting again back in Atlanta, then riding the home crowd to the city’s first major championship in 20 years.