BY MIKE PEDEN
The Minnesota Lynx added a few more firsts in their 2011 campaign against the Los Angeles Sparks Saturday night at Target Center.
Minnesota's 87-68 win gave them the privilege of being the first WNBA team to reach 20 wins this season and, more importantly, the first team to clinch a playoff spot.
"It couldn't get no worse than where we were at," said Lynx guard Seimone Augustus, referring to the franchise's struggles in her first five seasons. "A weight lifted off our shoulders."
Not that the Lynx felt weighed down leading up to a playoff berth. Clinching a spot has simply been a step all season in the team's ultimate goal of leaving their past behind and winning a WNBA title.
"We have that fire inside of us and we still got some work to do," Augustus said.
The Sparks (10-15) were the more energetic team in the first quarter, taking a 20-14 lead with Candace Parker racking up 10 points in the period.
The Lynx (20-6) communicated to their fans that they had control in the second, starting the quarter with three treys, ultimately taking the lead for good at 23-22 following a Maya Moore 21-foot three-pointer. Minnesota outscored Los Angeles 32-14 in the second and never let up on their way to their fourth straight win over Los Angeles after losing eight in a row.
"Yesterday, I came in the gym and shot 500 mid-range and 500 three-pointers," said Lynx guard Candice Wiggins. "You come in the game and just concentrate and that's going to help."
Augustus led Minnesota with 17 points, with Wiggins chipping in 13. Parker scored a game-high 18 points, although a more stingy Lynx defense would frustrate Parker after the first.
For good measure, the Lynx out-rebounded the Sparks 43-24 for the game.
While the magic number to reach the playoffs is now zero, the Lynx are seeking the magic number they wanted from the start of the season: home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Minnesota is two games ahead of Indiana for the league's best record with eight games remaining for both teams. A combination of seven Lynx wins or Fever losses would cement home-court through the Finals.
"That's when you'll see the locker room excited. To go from second-worst to first, that's when we will celebrate for a short moment," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. "Then you're measured by what you do in the playoffs."
Perhaps the biggest "magic number" of all is Minnesota's win total. In all but one of the WNBA's first 14 seasons, every championship team recorded at least 20 victories in the regular season. The Houston Comets were the only exception finishing 18-10 in 1997 before winning the first of four straight titles.
Maya Moore, who scored seven points in only 16:22 of playing time, may have acknowledged her battle to find consistency with her belief that Minnesota can go far beyond 20 wins.
"That's the scary part. We're continuing to sharpen up on help-side defense, continuing to communicate, making sure we're forcing players to do things they don't want to do," she said.
Watch below for special guest interviewer Lisl Von Steinbergs chat with Rebekkah Brunson on the development of Minnesota's young post player tandem of Jessica Adair and Amber Harris.
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15