WNBA rivalry rekindled for top two teams in Western Conference

Lynx-Mercury clash is rich in stars, story lines.

hide

Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (32) goes up to the basket against Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) and forward Candice Dupree in the second half of a WNBA basketball game, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The Lynx won 75-67. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Photo: Stacy Bengs, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A season later, Seimone Augustus still hears about it.

The Lynx were in the fourth quarter of a Western Conference finals opening-game victory over Phoenix at Target Center when, near midcourt. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi passed the ball, then gave Augustus a little shove. Augustus turned and glared. Taurasi then slammed her shoulder into Augustus. The two were face to face when Taurasi leaned over and gave Augustus a peck on the cheek.

“It was either throw a punch or get a kiss,” Augustus joked this week.

If you’re looking for a way to describe the intense and sometime tempestuous relationship between these two teams, that is the moment: Love. Hate.

When the two teams meet again in the Western Conference finals starting Friday in Phoenix, it will be the third time in four years that the Lynx and Mercury have faced one another at this point. Among the 10 starting players are six players who were named to this summer’s All-Star Game, four members of the 2012 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team and two MVPs (Taurasi in 2009 and Maya Moore of the Lynx this year).

These teams have a lot of respect and admiration for one another. But there is no better rivalry in this league.

“I’m sure they’re good people,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “These guys know each other from playing overseas and stuff. But it’s on now.”

Before this season the Lynx, including playoffs, had won 14 straight games against Phoenix. But this year, one season after many tabbed the Mercury as the next big thing, things changed. With a stellar starting lineup and perfect health, the Mercury set a WNBA record with 29 regular-season wins, including three in four games against a Lynx team that battled health issues much of the year.

This is the series WNBA fans have been waiting for. The Lynx have won two of the past three WNBA titles, including last season, and this season won 25 games for a fourth straight season, another league record. Phoenix and Minnesota ranked 1-2 during the season in scoring, scoring differential, offensive efficiency and shooting percentage.

“This is probably the biggest matchup, that people have been expecting, since I’ve been in the league,” Augustus said. “It’s kind of been brewing like gumbo. It’s been cooking up, getting the flavors together. Now we’re at the point where we’re ready to taste it.”

Lynx finally healthy

The seeds of this rivalry go way back, to when Taurasi’s team beat Augustus’ in an AAU tourney. They’ve been both opponents and U.S. teammates since then.

Many of the other players have similar intertwined backgrounds in Europe and on national teams, in addition to the WNBA.

The Lynx have the reigning MVP in Moore, fellow All-Stars in Lindsay Whalen and Augustus and a coach who has two WNBA titles. The Mercury has Taurasi, defensive player of the year Brittney Griner, All-Star Candice Dupree and coach of the year Sandy Brondello, who, in her first year, turned the Mercury from an all-offense outfit into a group of the most efficient defenders in the league.

“It’s a challenge we feel ready for,” Reeve said. “The way we’re playing now, I think, is the best of the season, in terms of our ability to compete with a team that had a record-breaking season. … They established themselves as the best team in the league for the regular season. And now we’ll see what we can do.”

There are reasons for Minnesota’s optimism.

Augustus is feeling as good as she has all year after missing 10 games with knee soreness. Forward Rebekkah Brunson, the team’s best defender, missed the first 23 games after knee surgery. A middle-of-the-pack defensive team over the course of the season, the Lynx were the third-most-efficient team over the final half of the season.

“We feel we’re the team to beat,” Moore said. “Of course, Phoenix had an awesome season, setting records, playing well. Take nothing away from what they’ve done. I just think our team is always confident to feel we are in control of our destiny if we come and play together.”

  • related content

  • WNBA Western Conference Finals preview

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    westernCONFERENCE FINALSLynx (27-9) vs. Phoenix (31-5)Game 1: 9 p.m. Friday at US Airways CenterGame 2: 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Target...

  • Seimone Augustus:Lynx star acknowledges teams’ love-hate rivalry.

  • Tongue-wagging Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi will be one of the protagonists in an intensity-laced Western Conference finals.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Thursday in Green Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close