- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve noticed at the All-Star break that teams in the league were taking a difference view of her Lynx.

Until then, most looked at Minnesota’s tremendous start with skepticism. These were the Lynx, after all. The same franchise that hadn’t made it to the postseason in six years and had never won a playoff series.

“There was so much talk that we had the best winning percentage,” Reeve said. “They became believers. There wasn’t the idea that there was going to be some kind of collapse as there had been before.”

The Lynx also had Rookie of the Year Maya Moore and a solid group of All-Star players around her.

Minnesota steamrolled the rest of the league, finishing with a 27-7 record that was six games better than the next closest team. The Lynx needed three games to dispatch San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs before decisively sweeping Phoenix in the Western Conference finals to advance to the WNBA finals against the Atlanta Dream on Sunday night.

Moore said the Lynx knew they had the makings of something special starting in training camp.

“Now we’re at a point where we put ourselves in position to reach that ultimate goal,” Moore said. “I’m not going to say we’re surprised, but it is nice to be so close to get that final goal.”

The Dream lost to Seattle in the finals last year, a run that they say prepared them to take on the best team in the league.

“I believe the difference from last year to this year is the fact that we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re here!’” Dream star Angel McCoughtry said. “This year is not ‘Oh my god, we’re here.’ It’s ‘we’re here. Let’s go. We’re meant to be here.’”

Game 1 of the best-of-five series is Sunday night in Minneapolis, where the Lynx have managed to gain a solid following in a town that has suffered from the recent failures of the Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves. The lower bowl of Target Center has been close to full for all three home playoff games in the playoffs, and the team is expecting a record crowd on Sunday night.

“The buzz around here is very energizing,” Reeve said. “Sunday night we’ll have by far our best crowd.”

The Lynx and Dream are the two highest scoring teams in these playoffs, the only two teams to average in the 80s. Both love to get up and down the court and flow into transition quickly, taking advantage of their versatility to score in bunches.

The Lynx may be new to this whole championship thing, but one of their youngest players is no stranger to big stages. Moore, the No. 1 overall pick, is one of the most accomplished athletes in NCAA history from her time at Connecticut, but even she said there is a difference at this level.

“The WNBA level is different than college in that talent level is so much greater,” Moore said. “A UConn, we tried to bring that same intensity no matter who we played. But here, if you don’t bring it, you get beat. That’s a little bit different.”

With All-Stars Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Moore and Rebekkah Brunson, the Lynx didn’t get beat often this season. With so much talent, and finally able to stay healthy all season, the Lynx overwhelmed opponents on both ends of the court, learning how to deal with the expectations along the way.

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