Everything was so familiar to Nicky Anosike, yet so strange on Tuesday night.
For the first time in a little more than a year, the former Lynx center was back at Target Center.
"It is so weird having to go into the other locker room," said Anosike, a starter for Washington until this game. "Pulling up here in a bus. Seeing the city again. I haven't been back since -- I don't know when the last game last year was."
A lot has changed since Anosike's departure after three Lynx seasons. The Lynx (24-6) beat Washington 73-56 on Tuesday for their sixth victory in a row.
In their previous game, they clinched first place in the Western Conference. And this victory coupled with East-leading Indiana's loss to Atlanta means the Lynx's magic number is one to clinch the best WNBA record. One Lynx victory in their last four regular-season games or one Indiana loss will give them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen, who made 10 of 12 shots from the field, led the Lynx with 21 points and five assists against the injury-depleted Mystics (5-24) who lost their ninth consecutive games.
Anosike has struggled -- like her new team. She is averaging a career-low 7.2 points. Against the Lynx, Anosike had two points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.
Her last game as a Lynx was Aug. 15 of last year. Afterward, the Lynx left on a three-game road trip, still hoping to make the playoffs. Anosike stayed behind, opting for knee surgery. The team suspended her.
The Lynx subsequently missed the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, by one game this time. In the offseason, they signed free agent Taj McWilliams-Franklin on Feb. 18 to play center and traded Anosike to Washington on April 9 for the Mystics' first-round pick in the 2012 draft.
"Generally speaking, Nicky wanted to be somewhere else and we didn't think she was a good fit," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "It was an easy trade."
Anosike, taken by the Lynx in the second round of the 2008 draft, initially thought Minnesota was the ideal place for her.
"I remember my rookie year -- I never wanted to leave," said Anosike, who played on two NCAA championship teams at Tennessee. "I loved it here. But you know things change, you grow up a little.
"Obviously, the coaching changes, the losing all that, not making playoffs. And it's up to them to make changes where they see fit. And whatever they have here right now is working. I am happy for them."
Washington, meantime, has been without guards Alana Beard and Monique Currie all season because of leg injuries. Beard averaged 16 points in 2009, the last year she was healthy, Currie averaged 14 points last year.
"We are just not lucky this year," Anosike said.
The Lynx are. Not one of their five starters has missed a single game.