After the Atlanta Dream beat the New York Liberty, a friend asked, “Would it be a disaster if this year’s WNBA Finals was boring after last season’s got so much attention as the best ever?”
With the Seattle Storm being so dominant all year long, it was somewhat difficult to imagine that the Dream could really contend with them. Moreover, given the Dream’s gritty style of play – predicated quite a bit on energy and scrappiness during the regular season – it definitely seemed like this would be series not made for television, Angel McCoughtry’s 42 points aside.
“Well it’s gonna be a battle of wills – who can impose their will, who can be the hungrier of the two teams and get the ball in their possession,” said Storm assistant coach Nancy Darsch. “It’s not gonna be pretty basketball all the time, but that’s the way it is in the playoffs: it’s a battle.”
Yet although looking at both the odds and statistical strengths seem to indicate that the series could be both lopsided and ugly, at the same time, the Atlanta Dream did manage to make it this far. And the fact is that they’ve been extremely impressive as they’ve made it through the playoffs undefeated.
“They’re in the Finals for a reason,” said Storm assistant Jenny Boucek. “It is not easy to get to the Finals. There are players and coaches that never get to the Finals. So they are here for a reason. And you don’t have to know anything else about ‘em but that they got to the Finals to know that they are capable of winning this whole thing. So we are very respectful of them and the season that they had in its entirety and also the run that they’ve made in the playoffs. And this team, we’ve had players with experience that if you get your momentum going at the right time, anything is possible.”
So regardless of who’s the favorite, there’s something to be said for the fact that the Dream are here in the WNBA Finals and that they’ve done so in dominant fashion on par with the Storm. And although it was only a small sample size of four games, the fact is they were good enough to cast some measure of uncertainty over the inevitability of a Storm championship.
“I don’t try to imagine things like that because I’m a positive person and I try to look at the positive and try to think that into existence,” said Storm forward Le’coe Willingham. “But there’s nothing you can take for granted. Like when the playoffs started, right now we’re both 4-0. Pretty much, we’re even. So regular season doesn’t even matter anymore – that was just what you did to get to this point and it goes out the window.”
As much as Willingham may not want to contemplate the agony of defeat, it doesn’t diminish the fact that they play the games for a reason – victory is never a certainty.