So far, it feels just like 2011.
The Lynx swept into their third straight WNBA finals with a gritty victory in Phoenix Sunday, a 7-point victory that would have been bigger if the Lynx had been able to hit free throws (15-for-27?) or if Lindsay Whalen had been able to hit shots. She was 1-for-12. True, she had a game-high seven assists and didn’t turn the ball over. But 1-for-12? Really? After shooting the lights out in Game 1?
The good news is that both Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson will have a week between games, plenty of time to rest their over-30 bodies and get enough preparation in for their finals matchup with Atlanta, the team they swept in three games in the 2011 finals.
Here are some other thoughts from the game:
--Center Janel McCarville had another strong game. Brittney Griner looked to be off to a strong start Sunday, but she didn’t do much down the stretch. McCarville only scored six points. But she had five rebouinds, five assists – second most on the team – to go with two steals and a blocked shot. She was a plus-16, the best on the court Sunday.
--What a fighter Brunson is. With Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus scoring all over the place, Brunson only took three shots. But she played great defense and had a ridiculous 14 rebounds.
--Also kudos to Monica wright, who came off the bench to play 26 minutes – coach Cheryl Reeve only played seven players . Wright helped defend Diana Taurasi and she scored eight points.
--OK. And now let’s talk Moore and Augustus. I wrote before the series began that a key matchup was Augustus vs. Taurasi. Well, Augustus won that one, hands down. Sunday, another big game – 8-for-13 shooting, 22 points, five rebounds, a steal and a block. Taurasi, meanwhile, ended her season with a 6-for-21 performance.
--And Moore? Talk about coming into your own on a national scale. She hit 12 of 22 shots – two of six three-pointers – for 27 points despite getting two quick fouls early.
OK, so what’s the early opinion on the finals?
The two teams split two games this season, with the Lynx winning by 22 at home July 9 and the Dream winning by 13 in Atlanta Aug. 20.
I think Atlanta is grittier than I gave the Dream credit for entering the playoffs. I thought Indiana would slow them down and beat them in the Eastern Conference finals. I think the Lynx can win, but all three of the Big Three have to be on for all the games. The fact the Lynx won today with Whalen struggling with her shot is a credit to Moore’s outstanding game.
The finals start a week from tonight, Sunday Oct. 6, at Target Center. They play here again on Oct. 8. Games three and four (if needed) are in Atlanta Oct. 10 and 13. If a fifth game is needed it will be at Target Center Oct. 16.