To some extent the Seattle Storm are so far ahead of the pack in the Western Conference, that it almost seems like the rest of the second half of the season is just a ceremonial march to a number one seed in the playoffs.
Today the 17-2 Storm aim for their 9th straight victory in Minnesota against the 7-11 Lynx, who are 9.5 games behind the Storm in the Western Conference. However, with the whole Western Conference struggling, the Lynx might have an interesting excuse.
The Lynx entered the season with championship expectations after a huge off-season in which they traded for point guard Lindsay Whalen and added 2010 All-Star power forward Rebekkah Brunson through a dispersal draft. However, they began the season without star wings Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins and then found themselves in the Western Conference cellar.
The Lynx have won five of seven games but are still below sea level with a 7 and 11 record. However, in the WNBA's woeful Western
Conference, the Lynx should make the playoffs.
Minnesota's bar of expectation is still high, even though the team is playing without injured star Candice Wiggins.
"Our goal was to win the championship. And I think now our goal has to be to get ourselves into second place. That will give us home court advantage until the last game and then we'll just see how it goes," said Glen Taylor, the Lynx owner.
But since getting Augustus back, the Lynx have experienced something of a revival, even while Wiggins went down with a second injury after Augustus returned. For the Lynx, this game comes within a string of home games that gives them the opportunity to prove that they can be a threat to the Seattle Storm. From Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times:
"We had a three-game win streak, then Candice goes out," Whalen said. "So we're trying to get it rolling. We've had a couple of good practices and are just trying to carry it to the court.
"We're right there with San Antonio and Phoenix in the mix (for second in the West). After Seattle, everybody is kind of jumbled. We just have to stay with it and look at every game as an opportunity."
The Lynx have the benefit of playing five straight home games after the break, as well as a healthy Augustus. She averaged 17.6 points on 48.1 percent shooting in her last five games, with the Lynx going 3-2 in that span.
If there's hope for the Lynx, it's that the Storm's two losses have come on the road. Nevertheless, the Storm have yet to lose to a Western Conference opponent and they don't appear to have any intention of letting up this season even as the Lynx attempt to surge ahead. A win today would further cement the Storm's place in history:
Gameday: Lynx vs. Seattle
If Seattle wins, it will match the second-best start (18-2) in WNBA history by Houston in 2000. One of the Storm's victories this season was over the visiting Lynx, 79-76 on May 19.