The WNBA Finals open on Sunday in Minnesota, and the Atlanta Dream are representing the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season. Minnesota finished with the best record in the WNBA this year, but it was arguably the Atlanta Dream that was playing the best basketball of any team in the league at the end of the season.
The Lynx won both match ups with the Dream during the regular season, but that won't mean much in the Finals. Both of those games came while Sancho Lyttle was away from the club and playing for the Spanish National Team. Lindsey Harding was still struggling and Marynell Meadors was having to piece together a starting lineup and rotation to account for all of the injuries and absences.
Still the Minnesota-Atlanta pairing breaks down into some pretty phenomenal individual battles. The Seimone Augustus and Angel McCoughtry match up promises to provide many a highlight over the best-of-five series. Both teams possess upper echelon point guards in Lindsey Harding and Lindsay Whalen. The real contest may be fought in the paint, where Atlanta's combination of Sancho Lyttle and Erika De Souza will be tested by the likes of Rebekkah Brunson provided De Souza makes it back from her stint with the Brazilian National Team.
Once De Souza returns, she will likely return to the starting lineup, but it will be interesting to see how often Meadors opts to go with the small lineup that was so successful in closing out Indiana. Iziane Castro Marques played her best basketball of the season in Games 2 and 3 against the Fever and figures to be much more of a factor in the Finals than she was in the regular season even if she isn't in the starting lineup. Minnesota's size could make things really tough on Atlanta's small lineup, but that was the same line of thinking that occurred after the news came out about Erika De Souza's departure against Indiana.
The Finals begin on Sunday in Minnesota with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday. The series will shift to Atlanta on Friday for Game 3 at Philips Arena.
For more on the WNBA Finals, the Atlanta Dream and the Minnesota Lynx, be sure and check out SB Nation's Women's Basketball Blog Swish Appeal.