Mercury look to gain ground on West-leading Lynx
The Minnesota Lynx will be well-represented at the All-Star Game, both in the starting five and on the bench. Of greater concern right now, however, is adding to their lead atop the Western Conference.
The Lynx will go for their sixth consecutive win Sunday when they open a home-and-home set with the Phoenix Mercury, who also can boast multiple All-Stars.
The two-time reigning Western Conference champions, the Lynx (12-3) have the league's best record and a 3 1/2-game lead over the third-place Mercury (9-7), who also are looking up at Los Angeles in the standings. Minnesota's Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus were among the top vote-getters in the West and will start in the July 27 contest, and with Cheryl Reeve coaching the team, there is a very strong chance Lindsay Whalen will join her teammates in Connecticut as a reserve.
The Lynx have a chance to sweep their four-game road swing after rolling to an 87-71 victory over the Silver Stars on Friday. Whalen had 11 points and four assists in the first quarter as Minnesota opened a 26-14 lead and was never threatened thereafter. She finished with 21 points and seven assists while Moore added 14 points and eight rebounds as the Lynx improved to 11-0 when scoring more than 80 points.
"Pushing the ball was definitely big for us," said Whalen, who is averaging 16.2 points and a team-high 5.4 assists. "I thought that's what we tried to do the whole night, was just make those plays and play together as a team."
Whalen and her teammates have certainly done that versus Phoenix this year, winning all three games by double-digit margins, including a 91-59 rout in the most recent meeting July 7 when Moore had 23 points and Whalen added 14. Moore has averaged 23.7 points on 48.0 percent shooting in the victories.
Moore's former UConn and future West All-Star teammate Diana Taurasi was held to four points in the loss earlier this month but has usually given the Lynx fits. She averaged 23.0 points while making 16 of 30 shots in the other two games and is coming off a strong effort Thursday in which she totaled 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 90-84 win in Los Angeles that ended a three-game skid and the Sparks' 19-game home winning streak.
"I think it was more important to break our streak of three in a row," Taurasi said. "They're a really, really good team, especially at home. I think it was more of a big thing for us."
Rookie center and top overall pick Brittney Griner, who also was selected to the All-Star team by the fans, missed her third straight game with a sprained knee and is questionable for this contest. The Mercury have tried to compensate without the 6-foot-8 Griner by utilizing a 1-2-2 zone defense at times to keep opponents off-balance.
"The important part is that we came away with a win," coach Corey Gaines told the team's official website. "We'll continue to work on our defense, our spacing."
The Lynx have won eight straight over the Mercury, including four in a row in Phoenix.