Iziane (Izi) Castro Marques chose to play for her WNBA team this week instead of Brazil's national team.
And, because the nine-year veteran stayed with Atlanta, the Dream will face the Lynx on Sunday at Target Center in the first game of the WNBA Finals. It's a best-of-five series.
Atlanta, without Castro Marques, might have lost to Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals. The Fever won the first game of the series, and the Dream, out of necessity, made adjustments for the second because Erika de Souza did leave.
De Souza, the Dream's 6-5 center, opted to join Brazil in the FIBA Americas Championship for Women in Neiva, Colombia. The winner there receives an automatic spot in the 2012 London Olympics.
Castro Marques, a 6-0 guard/forward, replaced her Brazilian teammate in the starting lineup and made quite an impact. She scored 30 and 23 points as the Dream beat Indiana twice, 94-77 to tie the series and 83-67 to win it.
"I couldn't ask for anyone to step in and play any better than what Izi did today," Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors told the Associated Press after the Dream's first victory. "It was an awesome performance. She was the X-factor for us that kept us going. She kept hitting shot after shot. She hit tough shots."
Castro Marques was a three-year regular for Atlanta until being reduced to spot starts since late June. She moved to the bench near the end of the Dream's 3-9 start. She averaged 7.9 points during the regular season, down from a career high of 16.9 last year.
Before her two breakout games, Castro Marques scored eight points as a reserve in the first game of the Indiana series. Not enough.
"I knew I would be in the starting lineup and had to step up big," Castro Marques said. She made 13 of 22 shots, including two three-pointers, in Game 2.
In the deciding third game, Castro Marques was 5-for-7 from behind the arc for the league's worst-shooting three-point team (26.1 percent). "I had open looks," she said. "I did not try to start shooting threes. It is what they gave me."
Castro Marques probably will start again Sunday because it's doubtful de Souza will be at Target Center. Brazil played in the Americas Championship semifinals Friday. Games for the gold and bronze medals are Saturday night, and the 3,100-mile trip from Neiva to Minneapolis is not easy.
With de Souza in Colombia, Castro Marques said Brazil's team didn't need her there. "They have been winning all their games by more than 20," she said. "And even if Brazil doesn't win they would still have another chance next year. It's not do or die."
The teams finishing second to fourth in Colombia -- which Brazil is assured of doing -- advance to another Olympic qualifying tournament next year.
Atlanta, on the other hand, was facing elimination in the playoffs. "If I leave, they had nobody to put in my place and they would be playing without me and Erika," Castro Marques said. "We worked hard to be here."
"Here" is the WNBA Finals, against the Lynx.
The Lynx beat Atlanta by 11 and 12 points in home and away games in mid-June. There were extenuating circumstances to those losses, Castro Marques said. Forward Sancho Lyttle was gone, playing for Spain. Forward Angel McCoughtry was not 100 percent after spraining her left knee in training camp. Point guard Lindsey Harding, a former Lynx player, was adjusting to a new team.
This time, Castro Marques said, the Dream has everybody -- except de Souza for the first game -- and is ready to go.