After watching his team score 44 points in the paint in a Game 1 loss to the Lynx, Atlanta coach Fred Williams decided to change things up. He went with a bigger lineup that included the twin towers of Erika de Souza and Aneika Henry, who had come off the bench for a double-double Sunday night. The idea was to take even more advantage of the Dream’s big frontcourt.
And what happened?
Lynx center Janel McCarville and power forward Rebekkah Brunson dominated the paint.
Brunson, the veteran with a record 18 WNBA Finals games under her belt, finished with the double-double, getting 12 points and 10 rebounds. She also managed four assists, a steal and two blocks. McCarville had 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a steal.
The Dream? de Souza had eight points. Henry had seven, battling foul trouble. As a team the Dream managed just 26 points in the paint. Two days after getting 16 offensive rebounds the Dream managed only four.
“We wanted to make ’em earn it,” said McCarville, who put a nice finishing touch on her performance with a behind-the-back pass to Maya Moore late in the game. “We took it upon ourselves to fight in the post as much as we could, limit their touches, just fight ’em, work ’em, get help from the guards when we needed it. Overall? Great team defense.”
Brunson is so versatile defensively that, at different times, she has guarded Angel McCoughtry, de Souza and Henry effectively.
Together, she and McCarville have been adept at passing out of the high post on offense, too. But Tuesday it was their defense that made the difference.
“The way they move their feet, they’re so active,” Moore said. “Between the two of them it’s a winning combo.’’
Sunday night’s finals-opening game, which was aired on ESPN, showed a double-digit viewing increase over last year’s Game 1.
A total of 391,000 viewers watched the Lynx beat the Dream 84-59. That was a 14 percent increase over the 343,000 who watched last year’s series opener between the Lynx and Indiana. Reeve thinks social networking has a lot to do with it.
“Players tweeting about the games, the league is tweeting it,” she said. “And we’re fun to watch.’’