Coming off a split of a challenging road trip, the Minnesota Lynx are looking to extend a few lengthy winning streaks as they return home to face the Phoenix Mercury.
Reigning finals MVP Maya Moore can help that cause by breaking out of her slump.
The defending champions seek their 13th straight win at Target Center and 15th consecutive overall against Phoenix on Sunday when the clubs meet for the first time since last year’s Western Conference finals.
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Minnesota (8-2) went 2-2 on its longest trip of the season after its rally from a 17-point deficit fell short in Friday’s 85-82 loss at Atlanta.
Lindsay Whalen matched a season high with 22 points, while Janel McCarville scored a season-high 18 and Seimone Augustus added 17.
"The type of push we had (in the second half), the energy that we played with, it was really good," Moore said. "The focus of people coming out of the bench was great. We just can’t have a first half like we did."
Moore, who leads the league at 22.7 points per game, continued her recent struggles in the loss, finishing with a season-low 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
The star forward has averaged 11.3 points while shooting 30.2 percent in her last three games after putting up 27.6 with a 51.5 field-goal percentage over her first seven.
She’ll try to get back on track at home, where she’s scored 29.7 per game during the team’s 3-0 start there. The Lynx haven’t lost at Target Center since falling to Tulsa on Aug. 16 – a 12-game run that includes four playoff victories.
They won all seven meetings with Phoenix last season by an average of 15.7 points, including their two-game sweep in the West finals. Minnesota, which also swept the Mercury in the 2011 conference finals, hasn’t lost in this series since Aug. 9, 2011.
Phoenix (6-3) will try to end that streak and close within one game of the West leaders in the finale of a five-game trip. The Mercury, though, are searching for answers on the defensive end following Thursday’s 96-95 loss at Connecticut.
Candice Dupree had 21 points, Diana Taurasi scored 19 and Brittney Griner 18 for the Mercury, who allowed the Sun to hit 10 of 13 from 3-point range.
"It’s on the defensive end (where we struggled), and usually that is where we have been so good this year," coach Sandy Brondello said after Phoenix fell to 2-2 on the trip.
Brondello’s club could have trouble with the Lynx, who are second in the league in scoring behind Phoenix (84.6) at 83.9 points per game. Moore, Augustus and Whalen are all averaging 16.5 points or more.
Moore totaled 47 points on 20-of-36 shooting in last season’s playoff series, while Augustus scored a combined 40.
Griner has averaged 18.0 points and 10.3 rebounds, while Dupree has put up 21.7 points and 9.3 boards in Phoenix’s last three games overall.