The biggest game of the no-longer-young season (hey, they'll be 10 games into a 32 game schedule, the equivalent of about 28 games in the NBA) comes Friday at Phoenix where the MN Lynx will be going for a WNBA record 10th straight win to open the season.
The expected 9th straight came at the hands of the winless Tulsa Shock, which is what a loss would have been, totally. The Lynx pulled away from a 44-42 half-time lead to a 93-73 final. Maya Moore led the way with 26 points, 15 of them on 3-pointers, and five of her teammates joined her in double figures--the vastly improved Monica Wright with 18, Rebekah Brunson with 15, Taj McWilliams-Franklin with 11, Candace Wiggins with 11 off the bench, and Lindsay Whalen with 10 assists. The Lynx shot 57 percent from the field, 56 percent on 3s, and 83 percent from the line.
And so the Mercury are now lined up as the record-breaking win. They were just 1-4 without the injured Diana Taurasi. Now they're 1-1 with her back and scoring 10.5 ppg on 50 percent shooting. DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree and former Lynx Charde Houston lead the way with 19, 18 and 13 ppg. But they've been out-scored 88-78 and outshot 45 percent to 42 percent. Their opponents have gotten to the FT line 24 times per game to just 18 for the Mercury.
But with Taurasi back, if not yet in top game condition, the Mercury will eventually be their old up-tempo selves, capable of out-scoring anybody. Let's hope it's not the Lynx, but for now it's the Lynx who are without their top scorer, Seimone Augustus. But Wright, who has been fabulous in Seimone's place these past 2 games, may be the WNBA's most improved
Still it seems that the game might be decided inside where Bonner, Candice Dupree and Houston average 50 points and 17 boards. The Lynx' Taj, Brunson and Moore average 35 and 17. With or without Augustus, the inside game will be crucial. The earlier 105-83 Lynx win over Phoenix came with Taurasi out and means nothing anymore. The Lynx are not going to go unbeaten and this will be a tough game.
Still I'm thinking they'll pull this one out in the late going to set aWNBA record with 10 wins to start the season. The next question is, What is the WNBA record for most wins in a season? The number is 28 (Seattle 28-6 in 2010 and L.A. 28-4 in 2000 and 2001, though the best record is Houston, 27-3 in 1997). 28-6 would seem to be within reach (they were 27-7 last year) but it's a bit much to think a .900 winning percentage could be achieved. The Lynx would have to go 29-3 to do that.
But, again, they were 27-7 a year ago and look to be improved. Wright looks like a contender for most improved right how. She and Wiggins give the Lynx a 1st class guard pairing off the bench. Then there's rookie Devereaux Peters of Notre Dame, who has done everything she's been asked for. It's that kind of depth that right now says this team could be better than the last.