NEW YORK — After defeating the Liberty, 79-69, on Tuesday night, the defending champion Lynx are 6-0 for the third time in five seasons. Five of their six victories have come against a 2015 Playoff squad, including two over the rival Mercury and road wins over Eastern Conference powers in Chicago and now New York.
In other words, this team has picked up right where it left off in October — same dominating defense, same well-balanced offense, same mindset.
“We consider regular-season games playoff games, as far as our mindset is concerned,” said guard Seimone Augustus after the win in the Big Apple.
Even after three championships in five seasons, there seem to be no signs that the Lynx are slowing down. They have more milestones in their sights, starting with potentially reeling off the best start in WNBA history.
That mark — 10-0 — belongs to the 2012 Lynx squad that was fresh off the franchise’s first title. Their current 6-0 mark places them fourth all-time.
“I think more than anything what it says is that we were ready coming out of training camp, the focus that we had, players wanting to be there on time,” said head coach Cheryl Reeve. “A great player like Maya Moore has never missed a day of training camp — for six years now is there the first day.
“We just have a group that came out of the gates and said, ‘We don’t want to be a team that lets games early in the season get away from us because we weren’t quite ready.'”
In a primetime matchup on ESPN 2 Tuesday night, Minnesota built a 28-11 first-quarter lead and cruised the rest of the way. Its usually airtight defense — which Reeve said is the team’s most under-appreciated quality — experienced a bit of a let up with the 17-point cushion, leading to a brief scare when New York cut the lead to six in the fourth.
“That’s the good news of it,” said Reeve. “Finding a way to win while still having a chance to get better than what we are — that’s pretty exciting.”
Augustus, too, believes the team has another gear in store for the league, explaining that the Lynx “still have work to do.”
Most pivotal to Minnesota’s success, of course, is Moore, who has made efficiency her early-season focus. Like most things she sets her mind to, she’s been successful.
Tuesday’s 25-point effort on 10-of-19 actually dropped her field goal percentage to 54 percent. Cooking up an early case for her second MVP award, Moore is also shooting 41 percent from deep, above her career mark of 38%.
“I’m glad that she was able to get some time off, because now we get to see what a fresh Maya Moore looks like,” Augustus said. “She still was amazing, but now it’s just like, ‘Whoa.’ Quicker, jumping higher, running faster.”
The Lynx and their superstar have looked so sharp early that a reporter even posed this question in Madison Square Garden’s visitors locker room: Is matching the Mercury’s all-time-best 29-5 record from 2014 a possibility?
“I’m not even thinking that far ahead,” Moore said. “It’s a very hard thing to accomplish. There’s potential for this team to do some really, really cool things that haven’t been done before. Knowing that’s out there for us, we’re going to stay motivated and stay hungry and focused to respect every opponent and come out ready to play. It’s an extremely competitive league. Of course, that would be amazing. But it’s going to take a day-by-day approach, and today we got a step closer to that.”
The challenges won’t stop in Minnesota’s immediate future, as they host the Wings and Mercury in their next two games before visiting the 5-1 Atlanta Dream. Yet the Lynx somehow look better than ever, still figuring out weaknesses and mastering strengths. They’re shooting a league-worst 27.8 percent on three-pointers, for example, but their defense has stifled opponents into a 27-percent mark (second best behind the also-undefeated Sparks).
“We don’t have any,” Augustus joked when asked of Minnesota’s weakness. “If I told you, everyone would have the blueprint.”