Lynx will have to get by rival Phoenix to reach WNBA finals

The 2011 and 2013 WNBA champions' next obstacle in the way of a second straight title is the Mercury, a burgeoning rival that usurped the Lynx for the Western Conference's No. 1 seed and status as women's basketball's top franchise. Minnesota opens the Western Conference finals at Phoenix on Friday at 9 p.m.

Janel McCarville (left) and the Lynx take on Brittney Griner and the Mercury in Phoenix on Friday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Stacy Bengs / Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The temptation for the Minnesota Lynx to look ahead to Phoenix is hereby nullified.

The 2011 and 2013 WNBA champions' next obstacle in the way of a second straight title is the Mercury, a burgeoning rival that usurped the Lynx for the Western Conference's No. 1 seed and status as women's basketball's top franchise. Minnesota opens the Western Conference finals at Phoenix on Friday at 9 p.m.

The winner will face Indiana, Chicago or Atlanta in the finals.

Reaching that juncture the past three seasons, the Lynx obtained the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the year. But 29 victories, a WNBA-record, allowed the Mercury to finish four games ahead of Minnesota despite its league-best fourth straight 25-win campaign.

In four tries against Phoenix this year, the Lynx won once. But the storylines beyond this season's matchups are plentiful.

Previous matchups in the conference finals two of the last three seasons. Diana Taurasi's overly friendly rivalry with Seimone Augustus. Moore's MVP season after outperforming Taurasi, a fellow Connecticut product.

All between the Lynx and a dynastic third championship in four years.

Both teams swept their first-round opponents to get to this point. Minnesota bested San Antonio in two games, and Phoenix handled Los Angeles in similar fashion. The Lynx swept the Mercury in last years' West finals, the middle portion of a perfect 7-0 playoff run.

Game 2 of this year's series is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. inside the Target Center, with Game 3 set for Tuesday, Sept. 2 at Phoenix should it be necessary.

Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter