Seattle – For the third consecutive year, the Lynx are the WNBA Western Conference champions.
They clinched the title by beating Seattle 73-60 on Tuesday at KeyArena. It was their seventh victory in a row and gave the Lynx a 4-0 regular-season sweep of the Storm, who will be their first opponent when the playoffs begin next week.
Maya Moore led the Lynx with 20 points, 10 in each half, and a season-high five steals. Lindsay Whalen had 19 points, 17 in the first half. Both All-Stars this season seldom missed a shot. Moore was 7-for-10 shooting, Whalen 7-for-9. Combined they shot a sizzling 73.7 percent.
"I told the team that what they do is really hard, but they make it look easy," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "As we went into the season, these guys kind of took the preseason polls [one ESPN analyst picked the Lynx for third] and crumpled them up, threw them aside and just got to work. I appreciate that about them — the way they've gone about their business."
Said Whalen of the conference title: "It's just one of the goals we've been working for all season. It's a good feeling definitely. We'll enjoy tonight and then get ready for our next game on Thursday."
Before this game even began, Phoenix clinched third place in the West — thereby locking Seattle (15-17) into fourth place — by beating New York 80-76 on the road.
With two games left, the Lynx (25-7) still need one more victory — or a Chicago loss — to secure the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. As things stand, they have it through the conference playoffs.
The Lynx play at Los Angeles on Thursday, then face Chicago, the Eastern Conference champion, at home on Saturday in their final regular-season game.
The Lynx, who beat Seattle 75-60 on Saturday on the road, took a 40-28 halftime lead in the rematch which ended with nearly the identical score.
"They disrupted our offense, got some turnovers, got some hands on balls, and were able to score easily," said Tanisha Wright, who led Seattle with 14 points. "Anytime you give them — how many fast break points did they get? Twenty to our two. That's big."
The Lynx also dominated the boards 36-20.
"At this point they're the best team in the league," Storm coach Brian Agler said. "They've proven that. They present a huge challenge. I like our team and I like what we can do. I like our upside and we're going to bring that upside out."
Last year when the Lynx and Seattle played in the playoffs, the Storm won Game 2 in double overtime at home and would have won Game 3 in the best-of-three series at the Target Center if Lauren Jackson's jumper in the final seconds had gone down.
But this year has been a struggle for the Storm with Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (knee), two of the league's top players, out all season with injuries. And Tuesday, Temeka Johnson, Seattle's starting point guard, sat out because of a sore heel.
But Reeve knows the playoff series with Seattle will be tough again.
"No secrets. It's going to be knockdown, drag out, survival of the fittest, which is what a playoff series should be," Reeve said.