Coming off another successful regular season, the Minnesota Lynx are eager for the playoffs to begin - and certainly wary of their first-round opponent.
After they were pushed to the limit by Seattle in the Western Conference semifinals last year, the top-seeded Lynx hope for an easier time starting Friday night when they host the Storm in Game 1 of this best-of-three series.
With a league-best 26-8 record, Minnesota joins Houston as the only WNBA franchises to post three straight seasons with at least that many victories. In the process, the Lynx earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
"Our record says we're the best team in the league,'' said coach Cheryl Reeve, whose club won eight of the last nine overall and their final five at home. "No one else can say if they win their home games they win the WNBA championship."
Minnesota won its first league title in 2011, but lost in the finals to Indiana last season. That memory of falling short lingers for the Lynx, who hope to use their regular-season success as a springboard to finishing the job this time.
"We're really proud of what we've done," said forward Maya Moore, the runner up for league MVP honors to Los Angeles' Candace Parker and one of four Lynx to average double figures in points with a team-leading 18.5 per game.
"I think we're anxious to get (the playoffs) going."
Minnesota won all four regular-season meetings with Seattle by an average of 17.3 points, and scored at least 90 in the two at home.
Moore, the first WNBA player to lead the league in 3-pointers made (72) and 3-point percentage (45.3) in the same season, went 8 of 14 from beyond the arc against Seattle this year.
Though Minnesota has won nine straight regular-season and playoff home games against the Storm, it can't take anything for granted after Seattle stretched last year's series between the two to three games. The Lynx held off the Storm 73-72 at home in the decisive contest to advance to the West finals.
Seattle had stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson in the lineup for that series, but both missed this season with injuries. Still, the Storm won seven of their final 11 to finish 17-17 and earn a 10th straight playoff appearance.
Playing in her 17th and final WNBA season, 38-year-old Tina Thompson has provided plenty of incentive for the Storm to return to the playoffs. The league's first draft pick and all-time leader with 7,488 points, Thompson topped the club with 14.1 points and 5.8 boards per contest this year.
"I want to go (a few) more games,'' she said of a potential deep playoff run.
Thompson totaled 42 points and 18 rebounds against Tulsa in the last two regular-season games, but averaged 10.8 and 3.0 boards versus Minnesota in 2013.
Moore scored 30 points and went 12 of 15 from the field in a 97-74 victory in the most recent matchup at Minneapolis on Aug. 31. Thompson had 18.
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