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Adubato leads Liberty into WNBA Finals

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Aug. 28
Wow, the Big Apple should be rocking and rolling on Thursday night as the WNBA Finals get under way (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). It's the Liberty against the Sparks! It doesn't get more exciting than New York vs. L.A., East vs. West, Broadway vs. Hollywood!

Richie Adubato
Liberty head coach Richie Adubato was an assistant coach under Dick Vitale with the Pistons and later coached the Mavericks.
The environment should be something special. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and excitement in New York at the Eastern Conference Finals. I had a blast in New York City watching the Liberty against the Washington Mystics in pivotal Game 3 on Sunday. What a day, baby! I went to Yankee Stadium and sat in George Steinbrenner's box, enjoying the Yankees against the Texas Rangers, and then it was off to the Garden for the WNBA!

There is nothing like New York, New York! I really enjoyed watching my old buddy Richie Adubato, the coach of the Liberty, who also served as my assistant with the Pistons. Richie is one of the great minds in the game. He knows the X's and O's inside and out.

He has a challenge on his hands against Lisa Leslie and the Sparks. New York has shown great defensive intensity this season. Playing at home is a great advantage for New York -- you can see the emotion on the players' faces. Sunday night, the place was jumping for joy and there were celebrities everywhere. Martina Navratilova was in the house, as was Rosie O'Donnell, Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" and Brazilian tennis star Gustavo Kuerten.

Leslie is a dominator in the lane at 6-foot-5, blocking shots, scoring and rebounding. Could it be back-to-back titles for coach Michael Cooper and L.A.? The former sixth man with the Lakers has done a superb job with the Sparks. The offense always goes through Leslie. If the Liberty can neutralize her and steal one at the Garden on Thursday, who knows ... it could be upset city, baby!

It should be an interesting series. Adubato is coaching in the WNBA Finals for the third time. Previously, the Liberty faced the heavily favored Houston Comets and fell short. This time, New York will be a big underdog again.

There's something about the heart and guts of this New York squad. This is a veteran team, led by Theresa Weatherspoon's aggressiveness. The Liberty needs scoring inside from Tari Phillips, who is not 100 percent due to injury, as well as Crystal Robinson's touch on the perimeter. Tamika Whitmore must contribute on the inside as well.

It should be exciting hoops as Cooper and Adubato match their X's and O's!

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