The Minnesota Lynx are off to another hot start in the WNBA, currently on a mission to avenge last year’s runner-up finish and win their fourth league title in seven years. Minnesota is off to a 17-2 start – a franchise-best 17-2 start, that is – and are closing in on a WNBA record thanks to All-Star players like Sylvia Fowles, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore.
Team MVP: Sylvia Fowles
At age 31, Fowles is having the best season of her 10-year career. She ranks third in the WNBA in scoring (20.0 points per game), third in rebounds (9.8), fourth in blocks (1.9) and second in field-goal percentage (.671) – and leads the first-place Lynx in all four categories. Fowles has scored 20 or more points in 11 of 19 contests. The 6-foot-6 center has grown into more of a featured role in Minnesota’s offense after being more of a bruiser down low in her first two seasons with the Lynx, averaging 15.3 and 13.9 points per game, respectively. Winning a team MVP is one thing, but Fowles looks like she’s on the way to learn her first league MVP. She’s won four Player of the Week awards this season and has swept the first two Player of the Month accolades. Not bad.
The glue: Lindsay Whalen
The all-time winningest WNBA player is what holds the Lynx dynasty together. At age 35, Whalen’s minutes have deflated to a career-low 23.5 per game, but her presence on the floor is irreplaceable – especially in crunch time. Whalen’s clutch jumper with 47 seconds left to play Wednesday marked the difference in a tight 76-75 victory over New York. More good news for Whalen: Minnesota will play its home playoff games at Williams Arena – her residence for four seasons while playing for the Gophers in college. In her senior season, Whalen guided Minnesota to a Final Four berth as a No. 7 seed in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
The X-factor: Maya Moore
Moore is fresh off being named MVP of the All-Star Game in Seattle, where she hit five 3-pointers and put up 23 points. The 2014 WNBA MVP was busy during the All-Star festivities, as she participated in the 3-point contest held at halftime of the All-Star Game. Moore and her efficiency from 3 has become a large factor in Minnesota’s game plan. She’s shooting a 42-percent clip from downtown -- her best mark since 2013. In Minnesota’s two losses, Moore is shooting 25 percent from 3, while in the 17 wins, Moore has a 43-percent mark. Her offensive rating is at a career-best 112.0, as well.
Unsung hero: Rebekkah Brunson
It’s hard to be an unsung hero when you’re a starter on a 17-win team. If you’re a starter on a 17-win team that has all the star power that the Lynx have, however, Brunson can get lost in the shuffle. She’s quietly stepped her game up this year. Brunson ranks second on the team in rebounding and has grabbed six or more boards in 12 of 19 games. Additionally, she’s evolved into a reliable 3-point shooter. In her first 13 WNBA seasons, Brunson shot just 12 3-pointers, sinking two. But this year? She is 18 of 44 (40.9 percent), a big reason why the 6-2 forward is averaging over 10 points per game for the first time since 2013.
Chasing a record
Minnesota, sitting at 17-2 with 15 games to play, has a chance to break the all-time WNBA record of most wins in the regular season, set by the Phoenix Mercury in 2014 with 29 victories. The Lynx have flirted with becoming the WNBA’s all-time winningest team three times. Last season, they set a franchise record with 28 wins, but a 98-97 loss to Chicago on Sept. 13 erased the possibility of tying the Mercury’s mark. Minnesota also fell shy in 2011-12, finishing with 27 wins both seasons when the record was at 28, set by Seattle in 2010 and Los Angeles in 2000-01. Despite Minnesota’s hot start this year, chasing 29 (or 30) wins will be tough. The Lynx face the Sparks – last year’s champion – twice and fourth-ranked Washington once before the playoffs begin.