After winning the WNBA title in 2004, Seattle hasn't made it back to the finals. Don't bet on the Storm missing it this year: Led by Aussie Lauren Jackson, who is likely to pick up her third MVP award this year, the Storm roared off to a near-record 22-3 start before finishing 28-6, 13 games ahead of second-place Phoenix.
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After winning four league titles with the now defunct Houston Rockets, Tina Thompson, the WNBA's career scoring leader and the only original player still active, has spent the last decade looking for her fifth. To make it happen this year, she and the Sparks must get past top-seed Seattle (28-6) first.
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Diana Taurasi, the reigning league MVP and a highly paid star overseas, caused a stir earlier this summer when she said she was considering a break from the WNBA next year. Now that she has resolved the issue by signing a multiyear contract extension, she faces the herculean task of leading the Mercury -- ow minus Taurasi's former running mate Cappie Pondexter -- to its third title in four years.
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Twelve-year veteran Becky Hammon, who averages 15.1 points and 5.4 assists and leads in the league with her 96% accuracy from the free throw line, has done a lot in her career, including winning an Olympic bronze as a member of the Russian team in 2008. But she has never won a WNBA title. She'll get her next shot starting on Thursday, when the Silver Stars face Phoenix in Game 1 of the conference semifinals.
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After helping Phoenix win two WNBA titles in three years, Cappie Pondexter requested a trade to New York, where she could better pursue her interest in fashion. Her arrival has been a boon to the Liberty, which missed the playoffs last season. Thanks in part to her prolific scoring -- she is averaging 21.4 ppg, second in the league -- the Lib went 9-1 in August to earn a second seed in the playoffs.
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Tamika Catchings, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, has been an offensive force this year for the Indiana Fever, which is trying to win its first WNBA title. A .403 career shooter going into the season, she has shot .492 from the field this year--including 43% from the three-point line--to average 18.2 points a game.
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Angel McCoughtry, the 2009 Rookie of the Year, jumped straight to the MVP race this year, averaging 21.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists for Atlanta, a third-year team that has made the playoffs for the second straight year. The Dream faces conference winner Washington in Game 1 on Wednesday.
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Even without star guard Alana Beard, who missed the season with an ankle injury, the Mystics have a good shot at making their first championship finals thanks in large part to the play of 6'2" center/forward Crystal Langhorne, who boosted her scoring and rebounding to 16.3 points and 9.7 boards a game in the regular season.
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