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Lynx Tracks: Playoff Preview

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*********************September 2011: Vol. 3, Issue 6************************

2011 WNBA Playoff Predictions

By David Zingler

For the first time since 2004, it's time for playoff basketball in Minnesota. Just seven more wins stand in the way of the Lynx and their first ever WNBA title. It's not all about the home team though; there will be a lot of good basketball played in the next month. Here's how it all could shake out. (Stay with it, I think you'll like the ending.)

Western Conference

Quarterfinals

1. Minnesota Lynx (27-7) vs. 4. San Antonio Silver Stars (18-16)
Minnesota's 27-7 regular season record was by far the franchise's all-time best and paced the league by six games. The streaky Silver Stars meanwhile, raced out to 7-1 start, lost six straight in August and finished the season on a 5-1 run. Although the Lynx swept San Antonio 4-0 in the regular season, two of the games were decided on buzzer beaters. Becky Hammon and Co. won't be pushovers, but the hometown team should prevail.
Prediction: Lynx in 2

2. Seattle Storm (21-13) vs. 3. Phoenix Mercury (19-15)
The last two WNBA champions square off in what could be the most competitive first round series. Seattle has been boosted by the return of three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who missed 20 games earlier this season with a hip injury. Five-time defending scoring champion Diana Taurasi leads the run-and-gun Mercury attack. When you add in Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Katie Smith, Candice Dupree and Penny Taylor, this series packs plenty of star power. The Storm won the season series, 3-1, but you can expect this series to go the distance.
Prediction: Seattle in 3

Semifinal
1. Lynx vs. 2. Seattle
The Lynx shattered Seattle's aura of invincibility with an early season road win and won 3 of 4 regular season contests against the Storm, but don't expect the defending champs to go down quietly. With Lauren Jackson back in the line-up (she missed three of the regular season games vs. the Lynx), Seattle won 8 of their last 9 to close out the season. Minnesota meanwhile, is winners of 9 out of 10 and they haven't lost two games in a row since June. While it won't be easy, the Lynx home court advantage should pay dividends in this series.
Prediction: Lynx in 3

Eastern Conference

Quarterfinals

1. Indiana Fever (21-13) vs. 4. New York Liberty (19-15)
The Eastern Conference is up for grabs - just two games separate the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds. Indiana was able to nail down the top seed thanks to a 10-3 start and 3-2 regular season record against No. 2 seed Connecticut. The Fever is vulnerable however, having lost 4 of their last 6. If New York hopes to pull off an upset, it will need a big series from Cappie Pondexter, the league's 7th leading scorer. The teams split their four regular season meetings.
Prediction: Home court prevails, Indiana in 3

2. Connecticut Sun (21-13) vs. 3. Atlanta Dream (20-14)
This series may be the toughest to call. The Dream limped out of the gate to a 3-9 start before a 17-5 run catapulted them into No. 3 seed. Connecticut meanwhile, has two of the top young players in the game, point guard Renee Montgomery and center Tina Charles. Nobody however, is playing better than Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry right now. The 3rd year forward narrowly missed dethroning Diana Taurasi as the scoring champ and should be the difference in this hotly contested series.
Prediction: Atlanta in 3

Semifinal
1. Indiana vs. 2. Atlanta
This is classic case of a team that peaked too soon - Indiana - and one that is peaking at the right time - Atlanta. If Indiana is fortunate enough to escape the first round, their title dreams could end in a nightmare. Look for the red hot Dream to make it two straight Eastern Conference titles.
Prediction: Atlanta in 2

The Finals

Lynx vs. Atlanta
While this would be bold new territory for the Lynx, the Dream would be looking to atone for last year's finals loss to Seattle. The most intriguing match-up of this scenario would be at point guard, Lindsay Whalen vs. Lindsey Harding. Harding of course, played for the Lynx from 2007-2008. Both teams are deep and have bona fide superstars. Minnesota, however, is a little deeper and has a few more superstars. At this point, it's hard to see anyone stopping Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson and Whalen and Co. from capturing Minnesota's first professional basketball championship since 1954.
Prediction: Lynx in 5

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