We’ve reached the WNBA Finals, and it’s become abundantly clear that my method of projecting the Atlanta Dream is outdated. There’s no reason to even show you anything using the Dream’s season-long rating, which Atlanta has long since surpassed, even without Erika de Souza (so much for adjusting the ratings for de Souza’s absence during the conference finals, as the Dream won both games without here).
So, again using Minnesota’s season-long rating (+7.7) against Atlanta’s since the middle of July (+6.0), here’s what the math says about possible outcomes of the best-of-five WNBA Finals.
(1) Minnesota 65.0 percent vs. (3) Atlanta 35.0 percent
Minnesota in 5: 25.5 percent
Minnesota in 3: 19.9 percent
Minnesota in 4: 19.7 percent
Atlanta in 4: 16.5 percent
Atlanta in 5: 12.5 percent
Atlanta in 3: 6.0 percent
According to the math, the odds are better than 1 in 3 that this series will go the distance, though the 2-2-1 format means we cannot entirely rule out a sweep like we saw last year.
To me, this series turns on a couple of issues. One of them is the Dream’s ability to contain Maya Moore. Atlanta usually has an athleticism advantage on the wings, but not really in this series. Certainly their depth is negated. My assumption is that Armintie Price will defend Seimone Augustus, leaving Angel McCoughtry on Moore. That sounds good, what with McCoughtry being a First Team All-Defensive Pick and all, but her success is built on gambling rather than playing sound position defense in 1-on-1 matchups. Moore must make the Dream pay when McCoughtry is caught out of place. Drawing fouls on McCoughtry, who has struggled with them throughout the postseason, will also help.
The second key matchup is at point guard, where Lindsay Whalen faces Lynx predecessor Lindsey Harding in a battle to determine the best way to spell Linds(a/e)y. Entering the season, I figured the addition of Harding would make this year’s Atlanta team better than last year’s finalists. It took a couple of months for that to play out, but now it seems to have happened. Harding is regarded as one of the league’s better defenders at the point; we’ll see how she handles a difficult matchup against the physical Whalen. If Harding can play her to a draw, I think the Dream wins this series.
Most likely, that won’t happen. Atlanta’s run has gone on far too long to be considered fluky, and the Dream is playing championship-caliber basketball, but Atlanta also hasn’t run into a team as well-rounded, deep and talented as Minnesota yet.
Pick: Lynx in 5