The Lynx are 6-0 through the opening weeks of the WNBA season with a roster that has more depth and ability than in past seasons, even compared with three championship teams. Are the Lynx good enough to dominate the league in the same way that Golden State crushed the NBA while setting a league record by winning 73 of 82 regular-season games?
Having Sylvia Fowles at center for an entire season is an upgrade and coach Cheryl Reeve has four players on the bench who allow her starters to play fewer minutes, which will be especially important because of the four Lynx who will be part of Team USA at the Olympics.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen, one of the Olympians, has averaged only about 22 minutes per game so far -- and all of the starters are playing fewer minutes so far than they did last year.
On Tuesday, the Lynx jumped to a big early lead and held off New York's rush at the end. Last Friday night, against 2015 WNBA runner-up Indiana, they led 29-6 after the first quarter and held on to win by three after Reeve kept all of her starters on the bench until the game's final seconds while the Fever drew closer and closer.
After beating the Liberty, coach Bill Laimbeer told Newsday: "I warned the team before the game started that Minnesota is a very big first-quarter team. They execute so well that we had to come out and play with such intensity in the first quarter or we’d be down, and that’s what happened."
So let's ask the question: Will the Lynx dominate the WNBA this season in the all-time best fashion of the NBA's Golden State Warriors?
Here are some numbers on the best teams in the WNBA's first 20 years.
The 2014 Phoenix Mercury, which beat the Lynx in the Western Conference finals that year, holds the league record with a 29-5 record.
Can the Lynx win 30?
Or can they go 31-3, which would give them a .912 winning percentage that would break the .900 mark set by Houston, which went 27-3 in 1998?
While it's too early in the season to draw many conclusions about the strength of the league's 12 teams, only the Lynx, Los Angeles and Atlanta are above .500. In 2014, only three teams won more games than they lost and only four teams did in 2013, which lends strength to the argument that the WNBA trends toward dividing itself into a few really good teams and a batch of mediocre and bad ones. That pattern was shaken last year -- the first season since 2009 when every team lost at least 10 games.
A formula for setting the record would include:
1. Staying healthy: Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson all battled injuries last season. Keeping them healthy and rested during a season made longer by the Olympic will be vital.
2. Trusting the bench. The Lynx have never been very deep. Only the five starters and Whalen's backup, Renee Montgomery, are back from the 2015 title winners. And Reeve is leaning on veteran reserves Montgomery, Jia Perkins and former Gophers star Janel McCarville as opposed to the younger players who have come and gone over the last few seasons.
3. Maya Moore maintaining her excellence: So far this season, Moore is putting up the best numbers of her career, which includes winning the WNBA's MVP award in 2014 and being named an All-Star in four of her first five season. So far, Moore is shooting 54 percent from the field (including 41 percent on three-pointers) and has a career-high 5.3 assists per game in addition to scoring 22.3 points in 31 minutes per game.
4. Surviving the next stretch of the schedule. Five of the next eight games are against the WNBA's toughest teams. There are two against Los Angeles, which is also undefeated), and others against Phoenix, Indiana and Atlanta, which leads the WNBA East. If the Lynx get through that stretch with only one loss, then we can start talking about the record more seriously.
Of course, the Lynx have to want that distinction. And that's not a factor to dismiss. Go back to the Indiana game for evidence: After scoring 50 points in the first half and holding a 23-point lead, Reeve watched Indiana's starters whittle away the lead against the Lynx reserves, including a fourth quarter when the team was outscored 18-5. Reeve finally brought four starters back in to play with McCarville with 34 seconds to play and Indiana down by 3.
Afterward, Reeve explained: "I just really wanted the second team to figure it out. I don't want to lose the game, but I think they needed that. I was just really determined to not have to grind the starting group. That was really important to me."
You never want to lose, of course, but if a bigger lesson had been learned in a rare defeat, that would have trumped an unbeaten record.
The macro version of that conflict will come up as the WNBA season wears out. How important will it be to win more games -- or have a better record -- than any team in the league's history? How will Golden State fans feel about the team's record-setting 73-9 regular-season record if the Warriors lose to Cleveland in the NBA Finals?
But it would certainly rank behind something the Lynx haven't done while winning three WNBA championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015. That would be winning the title in consecutive years.