Preview: Lynx at Storm
The Minnesota Lynx are so dominant right now that opposing coaches are praising the losing efforts of their teams.
"They're not the champions, but they play like champions," Atlanta Dream coach Michael Cooper told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his team's 90-80 loss to the Lynx on Friday night.
"I'm very pleased with the effort. I don't like the loss, but I was very pleased with the way we played to stay in that game so long."
Minnesota, which is 18-2 and on a five-game win streak, returns home Sunday to face the Seattle Storm (10-12) at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Center Sylvia Fowles led Minnesota with 29 points and eight rebounds in the win over Atlanta.
For Fowles, her 10th season has likely been her best: She's third in the league in scoring (20.1 points per game), second in rebounding (10) and second in blocked shots (1.9). Fowles is also averaging career highs in assists (1.7) and steals (1.6), and her 66.3 percent field goal shooting is tops in the WNBA.
Fowles credited the Minnesota coaching staff for helping her to an MVP-caliber season.
"I definitely have to thank my coaches, starting with (Lynx head coach) Cheryl Reeve," Fowles told the website SLAM Online recently. "The coaches that we brought in this year have done a good job keeping me poised, but at the same time making sure I'm locked in on what I'm dominant at. That's taking my time in the paint and doing what I do best."
Fowles has been named Western Conference Player of the Week four times and was its Player of the Month in May and June.
Fowles said she is anticipating a tougher second half of the season as teams make their playoff pushes.
"I think teams are going to come out and be more physical. I think a lot of teams are going to be more antsy to try and make a run," Fowles told the team's website. "As for us, I think we just need to stay aggressive and stay the way we've been playing and continuing this run."
Seattle comes to St. Paul on the heels of an offensive breakthrough.
The Storm fell two points short of the franchise scoring mark in a 109-93 win over Dallas on Friday, just three days after being held to 60 points in a loss in Los Angeles.
"It was just good to see consistent effort, consistent focus and consistency throughout the game," Storm coach Jenny Boucek told the Seattle Times. "We've had a lot of brilliant moments this season, but the consistency has been lacking a little bit in closing out games. Teams are always going to make a run on you at some point, and we kind of got wobbly a little bit losing so many close games early, to be honest with you."
Brianna Stewart on Friday night hit the 20-point mark for the ninth straight game as the Storm shot 61.5 percent from the field, a franchise record.
"When things are flowing, no matter what they did, we wanted to punch them again," Stewart said. "When you have a crowd like that, it's a lot more fun. There's energy in the building, and we thrive off that."
The Lynx host Atlanta on Thursday, and Seattle will be in Dallas on Friday to face the Wings.