The Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks will meet Tuesday afternoon in what is almost certainly the most-hyped regular-season game in WNBA history.
The teams are undefeated after a combined 23 games and off to the best starts in the league’s 20-year history. Their matchup will mark the first time that teams in the WNBA, NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL have met after playing more than 10 games without a loss or tie, according to data supplied by the WNBA.
“If you were to draw this scenario up through writing for a sports fiction story or something, I think the setting of what is going to happen would be high up there as far as the excitement of what’s built into this game,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “It’s just a really cool time to focus on and to celebrate the excellence you’re seeing on the court from both teams.
“However it plays out … is going to be very impactful for our sport.”
The hype built Sunday when the Lynx won 96-84 at Seattle, improving to 12-0. The Sparks moved to 11-0 Friday with a 77-71 victory over Phoenix. The rest of the Western Conference is below .500.
The Lynx, who play the Sparks again at Target Center on Friday night, previously held the league’s best start, at 10-0 in 2012.
The teams are either No. 1 or 2 in nearly all team statistics and feature one or two standouts in the top five of most individual categories.
Moore is averaging the third-most points (19.7) and assists (5.0) in the league. Sparks power forward Nneka Ogwumike (pronounced Neeka Ogwimokay) is fourth in rebounds per game (8.8) and her field-goal percentage (. 703) is the best in the WNBA. In her past four games, she has missed only nine of 45 shots.
“This is remarkable for two teams to be doing something like this,” Ogwumike said during a national teleconference call Monday. “I wouldn’t say there is more pressure because I don’t feel that at all. We’re approaching this just like we’re approaching every other game. But in my opinion, it’s very special for two teams to be doing this in the 20th [anniversary] season … It’s a very important milestone for the WNBA.”
The game will be telecast on NBATV at 2:30 p.m.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve shared Ogwumike’s approach. The “one game at a time” mindset is why her team has been so good, Reeve said, and the hype surrounding this week’s games won’t change that.
“It’s exciting for sure externally for the fans of this league and maybe even a chance to get some eyeballs on this league,” Reeve said. “We’re doing something that no other professional sports league has done. … It’s great for the league.
“I’m envious of my players. This is the time I’d love to roll back the clock and put my tennis shoes on and get out there and play.”
Both franchises are used to playing important games in WNBA history. The Sparks played in three consecutive WNBA Finals and won back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. The Lynx won titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and were WNBA runners-up in 2012.
They met in Round 1 of the playoffs last season, with the Lynx winning the best-of-three series 2-1.
In honor of the league’s 20th season, the WNBA will recognize the 20 greatest players of all time Tuesday morning. Both players on Monday’s call were nominated, with Moore a favorite to be among those honored.
Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen are among the other current Lynx who were nominated, along with former players Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Smith made the all-time Top 15 list that was announced during the league’s 15th season in 2011.
Sparks star Candace Parker is also among this year’s nominees and a favorite to be selected.
“It would be a humbling and awesome honor,” Moore said. “I’ve appreciated and seen all the talent and growth of this league since I was 8. It would make me feel even more thankful that I’ve been able to be healthy and in this position.”