Lynx on verge of breaking own WNBA record for start to season

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

With the WNBA Finals still four months away, the benefit of a strong start to the season can be marginal. Minnesota’s perfect 10-0 record is more for pride.

Make no mistake, though. The Lynx are well aware they would set the league’s all-time mark for most consecutive wins to begin a season with 11, if they beat Indiana on Tuesday.

“Because we were the ones who did it before,” coach Cheryl Reeve said.

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Indeed, the defending WNBA champions also started the 2012 season with a 10-0 record.

“We’re all a little older. We’re all a little more mature. We’re able to handle things a little better,” point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “This has a little different feel.”

Aiming for their fourth title and their first successful championship defense, the Lynx have been relying more on their bench than ever. Three-quarters of the core of the team that won its first title in 2011 are well into the second half of their careers, with Whalen and power forward Rebekkah Brunson at age 34 and shooting guard Seimone Augustus now 32. Augustus and Whalen particularly had trouble staying healthy last year, but Reeve has them playing fewer minutes than ever before to preserve their bodies.

“This group, 10 games into it, looks really, really fresh,” Reeve said on Monday after practice.

The preservation strategy has been made possible by the presence of experienced backup guards Renee Montgomery and Jia Perkins, giving the Lynx four starting-caliber players in the backcourt. Perkins joined Minnesota this season, her 13th in the league.

“We’ve had some quality depth, but it’s the veteran nature of the depth now,” Reeve said.

Maya Moore, the 2014 WNBA MVP award winner, is still the catalyst of this club, of course. Having center Sylvia Fowles, acquired last summer in a trade, for a full season is another boost. For perspective, the Lynx have taken their perfect record deeper into the schedule, 10 of 34 games, than the Golden State Warriors did with their 24-0 start on the way to the 73-9 finish that set the NBA’s hallmark for best record.

The Phoenix Mercury went 29-5 in 2014 for the most regular-season wins in league history. The now-defunct Houston Comets posted the best all-time winning percentage in 1998 with a 27-3 record, playing four fewer games than WNBA teams do now. The best the Lynx have finished is 27-7, in back-to-back years, 2011 and 2012.

“In the end, being 10-0 doesn’t mean a darn thing relative to the big picture of where you want to be at the end of the season,” Reeve said.

Especially when they’re barely in first place now. Los Angeles, which looms on the schedule twice next week, is 9-0.

“It’s like, ‘Who’s going to be the first to blink?’” Reeve said.

The Lynx play at the Sparks on June 21 and return home for the rematch on June 24.

“We realize we have a long way to go,” Montgomery said, “and I think that’s the exciting part.”