Mercury go for ninth straight when they host Lynx

The defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx are ecstatic to have won three of four games, including the last two, but their thrill is tempered knowing they are about to face the league’s hottest team.

The Phoenix Mercury (10-3) enter Friday night’s game against the visiting Lynx (5-6) on an eight-game winning streak.

Minnesota has defeated New York and Dallas in its last two games, both at home. In the 91-83 victory over the Stars, Minnesota post player Sylvia Fowles competed well against Dallas center Liz Cambage, scoring 19 points with 17 rebounds, a career-high five steals and a block.

The Lynx’s defense disrupted Dallas to the tune of 22 turnovers. They tallied a 13 steals.

“We work hard to make it uncomfortable for teams,” Minnesota guard Maya Moore said. “When it goes our way we celebrate it. We work hard to create momentum by being pesky on defense. Syl alone had five steals. We’re getting back to our identity. This is who we want to be, a really hard team to play against where nothing is easy.”

Phoenix brings a taller order than New York and Dallas, which combine for a 9-11 record.

The matchup of Fowles and Mercury center Brittney Griner is highly anticipated in the rematch of the teams. Phoenix beat Minnesota 95-85 on June 1 in Minneapolis.

“I’m usually on the edge of excitement when I get to go against Brittney,” said Fowles, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds against the Mercury in the first matchup. “She’s a really good player, so I always want to bring my best game. Remembering to be smart and confident helps.”

Griner had 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in Phoenix’s win in Minnesota. She says she patterns her game after San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan.

“The backboard … the glass … just keeping it really effective and fundamental,” Griner said. “You don’t need a thousand different moves. I’ve tried to get really good at three moves and then build counters off of those.”

Griner matched with veteran guard Diana Taurasi (averaging 20.2 points and 4.5 assists per game) gives the Mercury one of the best inside-outside combinations in the WNBA.

“(Brittney) has really made it easy to get better looks,” Taurasi said. “When she gets it going, teams really have to pick their poison, and the offense we run really suits that.”

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve became the seventh WNBA coach to reach 200 wins with the victory over Dallas. Her 70.7 winning percentage (200-83) is the best of anyone in that group.