Friday in Atlanta, with Olympian Seimone Augustus out with a mild concussion for the Lynx, it was Jia Perkins who gave the Dream — the top team in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference — the biggest headache.
Stepping in for Augustus, Perkins scored 18 points — all in the second half — on 7-for-9 shooting as the Lynx turned a one-point game at halftime into a 110-78 win, the biggest road victory in franchise history.
And then, Saturday, it was Olympian Lindsay Whalen out of the lineup, back home for her brother’s wedding. And this time it was Renee Montgomery who stepped in, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, making two of three three-pointers as the Lynx scored another road win at Washington.
Two starters gone, two games won, and the Lynx have matched their own league record, set in 2012, with a 10-0 start.
But this time it feels different.
“We’re a little older, a little more mature,” said Whalen, who was on that 2012 team. “We’re able to handle things a little better. It’s the same record as 2012, but a different feel.”
Minnesota will attempt to break its own record against Indiana on Tuesday night at Target Center.
“We’re aware, very aware,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Because we were the ones that did it before. But you know how this group is. Those are things that come with staying in the moment, paying attention to detail, on what it takes to win.”
With nearly a third of the season played, the Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks (9-0) have elevated themselves to some rarefied air; fans will have to wait until later this month to see the two teams play against one another, perhaps to see which streak survives.
“We’re putting a lot of pressure on each other,” Reeve said. “It’s like, who’s going to be the first one to blink? There is a lot of attention on it, for both teams. But, in the end, being 10-0 doesn’t mean a darn thing relative to the big picture at the end of the season.”
Proof: The 2012 Lynx didn’t win the title, losing to Indiana in the league finals.
So, clearly, Minnesota is hoping this 10-0 start is different from the one four years ago. And it looks to be.
The 2012 Lynx had four of the same five starters as this year’s team. The starters played a lot of minutes. This year’s team has loads of depth off the bench, with Perkins and Montgomery in the backcourt, Natasha Howard at forward and Janel McCarville at center.
That has given Reeve more tools to worth with, a better ability to keep minutes off her starters, and a roster that can win, impressively, on the road when one of those starters isn’t available.
“That other group was playing 30 minutes a night, every game, to do it,” Reeve said of the 2012 team. “From that standpoint we look a lot different. This team looks fresh.”
After a slow start in which she shot 28.2 percent through the first seven games, Perkins has scored 11.3 points, shot 44.4 percent overall and on three-pointers and averaged 2.3 assists in the past three. Montgomery, consistent so far, has upped her game in the past three, shooting 60 percent on threes.
Montgomery chose to return to the Lynx over a free-agent offer from New York that might have included more playing time.
She wanted to be here, on the deepest team she’s ever played with, one that has nine players averaging 11 minutes or more per game.
“I wanted to be a part of a winning program and have an impactful role on a good team like this,” she said. “And we know we can get better than we are right now.’’