Mercury stand in way of Lynx’s record start

Despite being without their leading scorer

for a second straight game, the Minnesota Lynx have tied the WNBA record

for wins to open a season.

They’ll look to break the mark Friday night when they visit a Phoenix Mercury team likely to be missing Diana Taurasi again.

Minnesota (9-0) is off to an impressive start in defense of its

league title. With a 93-73 win over Tulsa on Saturday, it matched the

2001 and 2003 Los Angeles Sparks for most victories to start the season.

While beating a winless Shock team proved not to be difficult, the

Lynx did so without Seimone Augustus, who was sidelined a second

straight game with a right quad strain.

Augustus leads Minnesota with 18.1 points per game. Maya Moore stepped

up in her absence Saturday with a season-high 26 points, going 5 of 8

from 3-point range and scoring 14 points in the third quarter.

“This was a fun game for Maya, she was poised and yet she was

aggressive,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “She took some tough shots, missed

some easy ones, made some tough ones. All-in-all, she hit some timely

shots for us in the third quarter when we really needed her.”

Augustus practiced earlier this week but her status for Friday is

uncertain. She led Minnesota with 19 points in a 105-83 win over Phoenix

in the teams’ season opener May 20.

“She’s a big part of our team, and just her presence here is great,”

Moore told the Lynx’s official website. “We’re excited for her to get

healthy and get back on the court even more.”

Unlike the Lynx, the Mercury don’t appear to have the depth to overcome key injuries.

Taurasi, who missed the loss to Minnesota with a strained left hip

flexor, remains out indefinitely. The defending scoring champion and

2009 MVP has played in two games this season and hasn’t been on the

court since May 26.

The Mercury (2-5)

have struggled without her, with both of their victories coming against

Tulsa. They fell 90-74 at Los Angeles last Friday after shooting 38.2

percent.

Charde Houston scored 22 points

and DeWanna Bonner added 18 and six rebounds, but Phoenix suffered its

fifth loss by double digits this season.

The Mercury, also without Penny Taylor due to a season-ending ACL

injury, are giving up a league-worst 88.4 points per game while scoring

77.7 – the worst differential in the WNBA.

“It’s like driving a car with two wheels,” coach Corey Gaines said.

“Does that make sense? It’s kind of hard. I don’t know what you can do.”

The Mercury are off to their worst start since 2008, when they also

opened 2-5. That team finished 16-18 and didn’t make the playoffs.

Phoenix has lost four straight to Minnesota, including a two-game sweep in the Western Conference finals last year.