A lot of Lynx fans will probably be watching the deciding game in the Eastern Conference finals tonight. But who should they be rooting for?
It all depends on what they want. If they want the best matchup for the Lynx in the next round, then they should cheer for Indiana. If they want the best series, maybe five games, they should pull for Atlanta.
Let's explain. Indiana was the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs but the Fever was 0-4 versus Atlanta, losing twice on the road to the Dream and twice at Conseco Field House where they have lost only four games all season.
Indiana has struggled mightily the last month or so on the road. Their 94-77 lost at Atlanta dropped Indiana's road record to 1-7 since Aug. 18.
The Fever also may have lost league MVP Tamika Catchings in that game. Her right foot landed on on one of the feet of Atlanta's Alison Bales and was hurt with 4:54 left to play. Catchings had to be carried off the floor and as of early Tuesday, her status for this evening is unknown.
Catchings averages 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists. She is hard to replace. On Sunday in Atlanta, where Indiana has lost six in a row, Catchings was struggling like her teammates. She was zero for eight from the field in the second half.
Indiana had closed within 55-53 when Atlanta went on a 11-2 run fueled by Iziane Castro Marques' nine points. She finished with a season-high 30.
The Fever shot just 25 percent in the second half and missed 13 layups in the game. And with Catchings hurting, although her foot could be a lot better by Sunday when the WNBA finals start, Indiana seems like the best matchup for the Lynx.
The Lynx were 1-1 with Indiana this season, 2-0 against Atlanta.
The Dream began the season 3-9, but finished 17-5, swept Connecticut 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs and are tied with Indiana 1-1. So why the slow start? Angel McCoughtry's knee was ailing and Sancho Lyttle missed some games playing overseas.
Atlanta's strengths match up well with the Lynx's. The Dream are tough on the boards with Sancho Lyttle and 6-5 Erika de Souza, although De Souza is missing this series because she is playing for Brazil in the FIBA Americas tournament in Colombia.
De Souza will be back for the WNBA finals.
Atlanta had the second highest scoring offense in the WNBA -- behind Phoenix -- averaging 82.5 points per game. The Dream are fast and outscored Indiana 25-11 on fast break points. Atlanta also has the second leading scorer in the league in McCoughtry. She had 27 points Sunday. And with Izi's 30 -- she was averaging 7.6 points with a high of 19 -- that's a pretty strong 1-2 punch.
Katie Douglas, Indiana's great three-point shooter, had 25 points. But can Indiana beat Atlanta without Catchings if it comes to that? The Fever has never lost an elimination game at home, but they easily could tonight.
Without Catchings, Atlanta wins. If Catchings plays and is effective, the Fever advance.
Either ways Lynx coaches and players will be sitting back and watching. Taking notes perhaps.
LYNX VS. EAST'S FINAL TWO
Here is how the Lynx fared against the two teams in Tuesday's decisive game in the Eastern Conference finals:
1-1 vs. Indiana
June 26 at Target Center: Indiana 78, Lynx 75 ... only time Lynx lost two games in a row this season, dropped Minnesota's record to 5-3
July 15 at Indiana: Lynx 80, Indiana 70
2-0 vs. Atlanta
June 17 at Target Center: Lynx 96, Atlanta 85
June 19 at Atlanta: Lynx 77, Atlanta 64 ... beat Dream in back-to-back games to contribute to their horrendous 3-9 start