We’re minutes away from the Indiana Fever and the Atlanta Dream tipping off the conference finals at Conseco Fieldhouse. Here’s a late look at what the numbers say about the two series. To review, my picks for the conference semifinals were 3-for-3, with the only misstep on series length coming in the Minnesota-San Antonio series. I thought the Lynx would sweep; instead they needed three games to take care of business.
West: (1) Minnesota 75.3 percent vs. (3) Phoenix 24.7 percent
Minnesota in 2: 38.6 percent
Minnesota in 3: 36.7 percent
Phoenix in 3: 12.4 percent
Phoenix in 2: 12.2 percent
In this case, I don’t think the overall numbers quite capture how effective the Mercury has been against Minnesota this season. The Lynx won the season series 3-2, but that includes the season finale after Phoenix was locked into the third seed and had relatively little incentive to win. So really it was more like a split. As compared to Storm-Mercury matchups, which have tended to bog down with physical play, games between these teams have been up-tempo affairs, often with scores in the hundreds.
I still give Minnesota the edge in this series, but I’d be somewhat surprised if it doesn’t go the distance. As with the last series, the key for Phoenix will probably be holding its own on the glass. If the Mercury has a dominant rebounding game like Game 2 against the Storm, that’s almost a guaranteed victory.
As in the first round, Atlanta complicates things. This time, it goes beyond the Dream’s improved play starting just before midseason. Now we have to deal with the probable absence of starting center Erika de Souza for the last two games of the series to join her Brazilian National Team for the FIBA Americas Championship. So I’ve actually got three different versions of the projections to show.
First, if we use season-long numbers:
East: (1) Indiana 62.1 percent vs. (3) Atlanta 37.9 percent
Indiana in 3: 34.3 percent
Indiana in 2: 27.8 percent
Atlanta in 2: 19.9 percent
Atlanta in 3: 18.1 percent
Now adjusting for the Dream’s strong recent play:
East: (3) Atlanta 54.5 percent vs. (1) Indiana 45.5 percent
Atlanta in 2: 31.1 percent
Connecticut in 3: 28.2 percent
Atlanta in 3: 23.5 percent
Connecticut in 2: 17.2 percent
If we could assume de Souza for the entire series, the Dream would be the favorites. In fact, Atlanta’s chances are actually better here than in the opening round. Not only did the Dream improve its rating against the Connecticut Sun, right now Indiana rates as weaker than the Sun did at the conclusion of the regular season.
Now, a hybrid model that uses the full-season Atlanta rating for the last two games:
East: (1) Indiana 58.6 percent vs. (3) Atlanta 41.4 percent
Indiana in 3: 34.2 percent
Atlanta in 2: 25.1 percent
Indiana in 2: 24.4 percent
Atlanta in 3: 16.3 percent
By this model, the Dream really needs to steal tonight’s game with de Souza and hope for a sweep. I certainly wouldn’t rule that possibility out, but I’m going with Indiana in 3. I think the extent to which this is a bad matchup for the Fever is a little overplayed, since two of the three meetings before the season finale Indiana had no interest in winning could have gone either way. But Atlanta is playing tremendous basketball, and with de Souza they would be the favorites to reach the Finals again.