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Insider Preview: Storm vs. Minnesota

HEAD-TO-HEAD
2-7 RECORD 10-0
W-1 STREAK W-10
1-4 LAST 5 5-0
67.2 PF 85.8
92.6 Off. Eff. 114.0
73.4 PA 71.6
101.6 Def. Eff. 93.5
30.6 RPG 36.5
.466 Reb % .536
72.4 Pace 76.0
2.7 Exp. Wins 9.7

Storm vs. Minnesota
Sunday, June 17, 6:00 p.m.
KeyArena
Radio: 1090 AM
Live Access: Available with subscription
Buy Tickets:
Promotion: Dads & Daughters Night.

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com


With Friday's win in Phoenix, the Minnesota Lynx made history by improving to 10-0 - now the best start the WNBA has ever seen. Previously, the Lynx were tied with two Los Angeles Sparks teams (2001 and 2003) that won their first nine game. Now, they stand all alone in the history books.

"We're excited about that,'' Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters after the game. "We're not a team that talks about records, but when it got to be nine we thought, 'What the hell? Let's embrace this thing and take our place in history.' We're happy to be the only team to start off 10-0.''

The question now is whether anybody can stop the Lynx. Officially, their winning streak is 13 games, counting the last three of the 2011 regular season. Unofficially, they've won the last 16 games that mattered, starting with the final six games of their march to the 2011 WNBA championship. Adding those together, Minnesota has lost just twice since last Aug. 16, an unreal 26-2 run that is on par with any stretch of dominance ever before seen in the WNBA.

The Lynx's 13-game winning streak is already the longest ever over multiple seasons, and it's tied with the 2010 Seattle Storm for third in league history behind the 15-game winning streak by the 1998 Houston Comets and 18 consecutive wins by the 2001 Sparks. So there's more history out there on the horizon for Minnesota.

There have been a couple of close calls along the way for the Lynx, most notably a 79-77 win in Washington that was tied in the closing seconds before Lindsay Whalen's putback provided the final margin. For a while, Minnesota was having a tough time maintaining leads. The Mystics trailed by 24 in the first half, and the San Antonio Silver Stars rallied from a deficit as large as 26 to lose by just four on June 3. Since Reeve emphasized defensive rebounding and playing with a lead in practice over the next few days, the issue has yet to pop up again. The Lynx have won their last three games by an average of more than 20 points apiece.

Overall, Minnesota's point differential of +14.2 points per game is far and away the best in the WNBA, with the Connecticut Sun (+9.1) the only other team beating opponents by half as much as the Lynx. (One of the Sun's two losses came to, you guessed it, Minnesota.) After the Los Angeles Sparks were blown out Friday in Atlanta, the West's second-best differential belongs to the San Antonio Silver Stars (+2.3). The Lynx's point differential is consistent with a perfect record.

Can Minnesota be beaten? First, an opponent will have to find a way to slow a Lynx offense shooting better than 50 percent from the field, a mark never before seen in league history (the record is 47.3 percent shooting by the 2010 Phoenix Mercury). Don't think shutting down leading scorer Seimone Augustus is enough, since the Lynx were dominant in the two games Augustus missed due to a strained right quadriceps before returning for last night's win at Phoenix. Minnesota has six players averaging at least 7.8 points per game, and 6th woman Monica Wright is nearly scoring double figures (9.7 ppg) in barely 20 minutes a night. The two players in the Lynx's top seven rotation shooting less than 50 percent from the field (Maya Moore and Candice Wiggins) are both hitting better than 44 percent of their threes.

The Storm did have some success defending Minnesota on May 27 at the Target Center, holding the Lynx to season-low 44.8 percent shooting. Yet Minnesota still won by 13 thanks to second chances (the Lynx rebound an incredible 37.0 percent of the shots they do miss) and a defense that is strong in its own right. Minnesota holds opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the field, the WNBA's lowest mark. Unable to muster any offense in the paint, the Storm was able to compensate with a franchise-record-tying 14 three-pointers in the May 27 matchup. However, the Lynx made taking away the three a priority in the next meeting and held the Storm to 4-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc in their blowout win on June 6.

For the Storm, KeyArena will be a welcome sight more than two weeks after the team's last home game. In the interim, the Storm played five road games over three different trips, returning to Seattle in between. By beating Tulsa in impressive fashion Friday, the Storm salvaged a 1-4 record on the trip and demonstrated how well the team can shoot the basketball at best. The Storm's 54.7 percent shooting was far and away a season high - previously, the team hadn't cracked the 40 percent mark since Opening Night.

Storm center Ann Wauters has a chance to make some history of her own on Sunday. Wauters is eight points away from 2,000 in her WNBA career, and needs just one rebound to reach 1,000.

KEY MATCHUP
With all of Minnesota's talent, rookie Devereaux Peters - the No. 3 overall pick out of Notre Dame - has been something of an afterthought coming off the bench. However, Peters has been terrific in two games against the Storm, scoring 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The energetic Peters has been able to slip to the basket against the Storm's pick-and-roll defense, which starting center Taj McWilliams-Franklin also exploited to shoot a perfect 8-of-8 from the field in the last meeting. For the Storm, veteran Tina Thompson is starting to find a groove off the bench, in large part because she's been able to avoid foul trouble and play heavy minutes. Thompson has scored double-figures in the team's last three games, including a season-high 16 on Friday night when she was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.
LAST MEETING

The Minnesota Lynx continued their undefeated start with a 79-55 win over the Storm on June 6. In a matchup of the best and worst offenses in the WNBA, the Storm struggled to find a rhythm offensively outside of the second quarter. Minnesota opened up a 17-point lead after one quarter and, when the Storm cut the advantage down to seven early in the third quarter, responded by holding the Storm scoreless for more than five and a half minutes during a 13-0 run that effectively ended the game.

The most positive development for the Storm was Tanisha Wright getting back on track after a slow start to the season offensively. Wright scored a season-high 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, her first double-digit effort of the year. The Storm's bench scored 25 points, including eight from Thompson and seven with five rebounds from Victoria Dunlap. McWilliams-Franklin paced five Lynx players in double figures by scoring 17 points on 8-of-8 shooting. Minnesota, which played without Augustus, also got a career-high 14 points from Peters.

INJURIES

Storm - None.

Minnesota - None.

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