JUN 12, 2014 1:47p ET
The Atlanta Dream aren't diminishing their accomplishment of appearing in three of the last four WNBA Finals, but coming away without a championship each time has them motivated to get over the hump this season.
Instead, the league's standard has been set by the Minnesota Lynx, who have made three straight Finals appearances and swept Atlanta in both 2011 and 2013.
The Dream look to get some measure of revenge for that most recent setback as they host the Lynx on Friday night.
Atlanta (5-3) has never won a game in the championship round despite winning three Eastern Conference titles. It finds itself in a familiar position atop the conference this season after routing Chicago 97-59 on Saturday for the most lopsided victory in franchise history.
Erika de Souza was named the conference's player of the week, scoring a career-high 27 points in a 93-85 win over Los Angeles on June 3 before finishing with 20 against the Sky.
The 6-foot-5 center ranks among the league leaders in points per game (18.5), rebounds per game (9.5) and field-goal percentage (67.0).
''Everybody plays together this year,'' de Souza said. ''I think that step by step, we can win the finals, win the championship.''
Michael Cooper has gradually seen his team improve in his first season coaching the Dream and was pleased with the balanced effort against the Sky. Angel McCoughtry finished with 20 points and Sancho Lyttle added 15 and 12 rebounds.
''Our team is definitely getting better,'' Cooper said. ''Slowly but surely you can see we're definitely starting to get to know each other.''
The Lynx are starting to become more familiar with trips to the White House, visiting for the second time in three years Thursday to celebrate last season's Finals victory over Atlanta.
"It's such a big honor," said Maya Moore, who leads the league in scoring at 24.1 points per game. "It's a moment for us to really celebrate and appreciate all the memories and all the things we accomplished last year."
Minnesota (8-1) got its title defense off to a strong start, winning its first seven games. The Lynx bounced back from their first loss Sunday, as Seimone Augustus scored 26 points while Moore added 12 and 13 rebounds in an 85-72 victory over Los Angeles.
The Lynx will be looking to go 3-1 on their road trip, but coach Cheryl Reeve figures the Dream will give them all they can handle.
"Atlanta has been sitting there all week waiting for us," Reeve said. "I suspect Michael Cooper reminded them what the Finals looked like. We've got to know that going in there. It's going to be hard."
Moore was named Finals MVP after averaging 20.0 points against the Dream, who got only 10.0 points per game from de Souza in the series.
Minnesota has won 12 of the last 13 meetings, including the two championship series.