A Perfect 10?
The Minnesota Lynx don’t want to talk about it.
They’re focused on the next opponent and not worried about history. One game at a time, as the saying goes.
Which is fine. Because if the Lynx pick up a win on Friday night, history will be there to congratulate them.
“We're really not talking about a winning streak; we're talking about our next opponent,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve after a practice session this week. “More than anything, we're just happy to be off to a fast start. It's never bad when you come out of the gates early and you've had the success that we've had.
As for everyone outside of the Lynx locker room, Friday’s game between Minnesota and Phoenix is not just part of the five-game slate of games that tips off the weekend.
Simply put, this game is historic.
In the first decade and a half of WNBA basketball, no team has opened a season with 10 straight wins. And in a season that consists of just 34 games, the Lynx would be nearly a third of the way to a perfect season.
Though you’d never know it by talking to them.
“We're just trying to get better,” Reeve said.” I have a group that's really humble and they also understand that it's everybody else externally that talks about this. We're just really focused and we know when we do that we have a chance to be successful.”
Point guard Lindsay Whalen, often seen as an extension of the head coach on the floor, stuck to the script.
“Actually I've just been focused on the last few days of practice,” she said. “We've had a couple of good days. We've played nine games; that's now over, and it's on to the next game.”
A perfect season: hyperbole? Maybe. Impossible? Probably. But the longer the Lynx can keep this run going, and the more records they chase down along the way, the more WNBA fans should appreciate what this team is doing on a nightly basis.
“We're expecting big things this season and obviously it's starting out well for us so we're happy about that,” said Seimone Augustus.
Last Saturday, the Lynx became just the third team to open a season with nine consecutive wins, and the first to do so in nine years. The only other teams to accomplish the feat were Lisa Leslie’s 2001 and 2003 Los Angeles Sparks clubs.
But what does a great winning streak to open the regular season really mean? Both Sparks teams that opened the year with nine straight wins went on to represent the Western Conference in the WNBA Finals. In 2001, they took down the Charlotte Sting, but were denied their third straight title in 2003 at the hands of the Detroit Shock.
Obviously, the Lynx would love to follow in the footsteps of that 2001 Sparks team – the one that didn’t just win the title, but also finished among the best WNBA teams of all time, with a regular season record of 28-4 and a .875 winning percentage, tied for second best in WNBA history.
The 1998 season featured 30 games and the 2000 and 2001 season featured 32 games, so to compare the Lynx on their chase for the best record of all time, we must use winning percentage.
The 2012 WNBA season is less than a third of the way complete, so projecting the Lynx to finish with the league’s all-time best record is definitely premature – but then again, history, is definitely on their side.
So how dominant have the Lynx been as of late? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
In their first nine wins, Minnesota’s average margin of victory was 13.77 points. The Lynx have defeated three opponents by 20 points or more, including their Friday opponent, the Mercury, in the season opener. Their closest game came two weeks ago, as they edged the Mystics, 79-77, in Washington. But don’t think the Lynx aren’t a strong road team – they have won all four of their road games by an average of 13.25 points.
On Friday, they will face a Phoenix team that is just 2-5 on the season and could once again find themselves without perennial All-Star Diana Taurasi, who has missed much of the season with a left hip flexor strain. The Mercury are also without Penny Taylor, who is missing the entire WNBA season due to a torn ACL suffered overseas during the winter.
But it’s not like Minnesota is at full strength itself. The Lynx have won their last two games -- over the Storm and Shock -- without leading scorer Seimone Augustus, who was been sidelined with a right quad strain. The availability of both stars remains questionable for Friday’s matchup.
And while the Mercury have gone just 1-4 with Taurasi on the mend, the Lynx have continued to win without Augustus, a testament to a roster depth that’s superior to every team in the WNBA.
“That’s the best team we’ve seen. I mean they’re all very skilled, their bigs rebound hard and they don’t really have any weaknesses,” Shock coach Gary Kloppenburg said after Minnesota’s latest victory. “That second group in there could probably make the playoffs – their second five.”
The Lynx have not lost a WNBA game – including regular season and postseason – since Sept. 18, 2011 at San Antonio, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Minnesota then went on to win the next game to take the series, 2-1, then followed it up with a sweep of Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals (2-0) and another, of Atlanta, in the WNBA Finals (3-0).
With six straight postseason wins to close 2011 and nine straight wins to open the regular season, the Lynx have won 15 consecutive games (excluding the 2012 preseason, where they won both games, by the way).
If you exclude the playoffs, the Lynx won the last three games of the 2011 regular season, which puts their regular season winning streak at 12 games spanning two seasons, with their last loss coming on Sept. 2, 2011 to the New York Liberty.
The Lynx were picked by WNBA GMs and media members nationwide as the overwhelming favorite to defend their WNBA title. So the potential for a special season from the Lynx does not come as much of a surprise.
Now special has a chance to become historic.
Just don’t ask them to talk about it. Not yet anyway.