The Minnesota Lynx left with their first WNBA championship the last time they visited Atlanta, but as they make their return to Philips Arena on Saturday night, they aren't focusing much on the past.
Despite having clinched a playoff spot at the earliest point in franchise history and owning the best record in the league, the Lynx are determined to improve as they meet the Dream for the first time since sweeping them in the finals last season.
Minnesota went a WNBA-best 27-7 in 2011 and then rolled to the title, going 7-1 in the postseason. The Lynx capped the playoffs with three straight wins over the Dream, securing the championship with a 73-67 victory in Atlanta on Oct. 7.
They again have the best record in the league at 18-4, capturing a playoff berth Sunday with an 83-59 home win over Tulsa.
"Clinching a playoff spot is just part of the process," coach Cheryl Reeve told the Lynx's official website. "It's not anything that our players think about. We have a lot of games to play. We've got some big goals as do the teams we're fighting with."
Minnesota then went out and won 86-73 in Seattle on Tuesday to post its fifth straight victory, which have come by an average of 20.4 points. Even with those easy wins, the Lynx aren't letting their guard down, especially with Los Angeles one game behind them and San Antonio two back in the Western Conference.
"Every day get better," forward Maya Moore said. "Come to practice focused, concentrating, staying together. It's simple. The fundamentals, just making sure we're getting all the little details right every day.
"That's going to matter against the next team we play. It's such a competitive league, so the little things make the biggest difference. We just keep working on the small things."
Atlanta also appears to be working things out, as it improved to 3-1 since the Olympic break and moved above .500 for the first time this season with an 81-69 win at Washington on Friday night.
The Dream (12-11) are in third place in the Eastern Conference and trying to hold off New York and Chicago as they begin a stretch of five straight home games with a matchup they've been looking forward to for quite some time.
"We all remember the sting of losing to Minnesota in the finals last year," coach Marynell Meadors told the Dream's official website. "This is our first chance to play them again since then, and it's a really big game for us.
"This is one of those games that we circled on the calendar as soon as the schedule came out. They're a great team and it's going to be a big challenge for us, but I feel like we're up to the challenge."
Including the finals, Minnesota has won the last six meetings, and it may not have to deal with the WNBA's leading scorer Saturday.
Angel McCoughtry, averaging 22.7 points, has missed Atlanta's last two games due to personal reasons.
"She's day to day. We're very hopeful that she gets back pretty soon," said Meadors, whose team will be trying to win a season high-tying third straight.
- Minnesota Lynx