Falling to Indiana in four games last season, the Lynx will begin its quest to claw back the title in Game One at 5:30 p.m. PT Sunday on ESPN.
Also swept by Seattle in the 2010 Finals, the Dream are 0-6 in championship games, as it makes its third visit in the last four years. However, the three losses to the Storm were by a combined eight points.
Minnesota: C Janel McCarville(6.3 ppg), PF Rebekkah Brunson (10.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg), SF Maya Moore (18.5 ppg), PG Lindsay Whalen (14.9 ppg), and SG Seimone Augustus (16.3 ppg).
Atlanta: C Erika deSouza (12.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg), PF Armintie Herrington (7 ppg), SF Angel McCoughtry (league-high 21.5 ppg), PG Jasmine Thomas (8.5 ppg), and SG Tiffany Hayes (11.3 ppg).
The margins of which the Lynx won in 2011 were 88-74, 101-95 and 73-67, with Angel McCoughtry averaging 31 for the Dream, while MVP Seimone Augustus was around 25 for Minnesota. Rookie Maya Moore only scored 34 points in the series and played limited minutes, compared to what she plays as a third-year MVP candidate.
“We remember them from 2011,” McCoughtry said. “It was tough. This is a different team, different coach (Fred Williams replacing Marynell Meadors), just a different look. We feel very confident coming in.”
The Lynx and Dream split the two meetings this season. While Augustus rode the bench with a sprained left ankle and McCoughtry was held to 5-of-19 shooting, the Lynx blew out the Dream July 9 at the Target Center, as Monica Wright scored 22, starting at the two-spot in place of Augustus.
Atlanta took the second meeting at home, Aug. 20, 88-75, with Tiffany Hayes equaling former UConn teammate Moore with 23 points. Rebekkah Brunson also went for 16 points and 14 boards in the loss.
Still, Minnesota is a heavy favorite, sporting three starters who could make a case they are each the best in the world at their position. Even Wright, who comes off the bench, was invited to the training camp for the national team.
“It has a lot to do with the makeup of our team, the personalitites, how well they mesh together, the style of play and how we complement each other on the floor,” Augustus said. “A lot of us sacrifice a lot to make things possible. I had to be a defensive player and go on to other teams’ best player, Maya had to mature into the player she is now in order to make this team better. It’s been a blessing for us to make it three years in a row.”
Augustus touched on how the Lynx lost the rebounding battle with the Phoenix Mercury after Game Two of the Western Conference Finals, and that is an area her team needs to improve to contend in the paint with deSouza.
“The expectation for us is to hold each other accountable, and if you don’t have a team that is willing to confront each other, you are not going to be able to grow,” Moore said.
Game Two will be Tuesday before the series shift to Atlanta for Game Three Thursday and an if necessary Game Four Oct. 13. Game Five would be Oct. 16 at Minneapolis.
“It’s not going to be easy, it wasn’t easy in 2011,” Augustus said.