Since its 3-9 start to the season, the Atlanta Dream have had to work extra hard to earn back that early season respect from many of the media personalities around the league. In ESPN.com's preview of the 2011 WNBA Finals, all four women's basketball writers picked the Minnesota Lynx to ultimately win the series.
Michelle Smith, Pat Borzi and Meri-Jo Borzilleri all predict that the Lynx will take the series in four games. Home court advantage and Minnesota's dominance for the entire season were deciding factors for each. Mechelle Voepel at least acknowledges Atlanta's upset victories in the playoffs over the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. Voepel still picks the Lynx to win the series but predicts that the series will go the distance and need the full five games.
Seriously, kudos to Atlanta for beating Connecticut and Indiana, despite the Sun and the Fever having home-court advantage in both those series. The Dream will be facing that again versus Minnesota, and I do think that will be a factor this time. (Although I thought it would be against Connecticut and Indy, too.)
Minnesota may in fact be the most talented team in the WNBA, but the Atlanta Dream have passed every test thrown their way down the stretch and in the playoffs. They responded to Erika De Souza's departure by ripping the Indiana Fever by a combined 33 points in the final two games of that series. Over the last two seasons, Atlanta has never had home court advantage in the playoffs and despite being swept in the Finals by Seattle last season, all of those games came down to the final possessions. Atlanta is more than comfortable in the underdog role.
For more on the WNBA Finals series between the Atlanta Dream and the Minnesota Lynx, be sure and check out SB Nation's Women's Hoops blog Swish Appeal.