Los Angeles (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Kickoff: 8:00 pm EDT Thu May 24, 2012

The Minnesota Lynx have gotten off to a quick start in defense of their WNBA title. The Los Angeles Sparks may have a chance to keep them from repeating.

The Lynx and Sparks will both try to improve to 3-0 when they meet at the Target Center on Thursday night.

After not receiving much of a challenge in its opener - a 105-83 win over Phoenix on Sunday - Minnesota was tested early at New York on Tuesday before pulling away for an 80-62 victory, its eighth straight going back to last season’s playoff run.

Seimone Augustus, who left Sunday’s victory with bruised ribs, returned and had 22 points while Maya Moore added 15 and seven assists. Rebekkah Brunson scored 14 points to go with eight rebounds.

The game was tied at 29 midway through the second quarter before Minnesota went on a 17-4 run, leading by double digits most of the rest of the way.

Despite shooting 54.7 percent overall in two comfortable wins, the Lynx aren’t content.

“We’re not where we want to be,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We certainly had some good moments, but we like to be talking about a win and saying we have to get better rather than losing and saying we have to get better. We still have a long way to go.”

With seven players averaging at least 7.0 points, Minnesota is one of the deeper teams in the WNBA, making it a favorite for another championship. However, Los Angeles is also showing depth behind a healthy Candace Parker and the surprising Kristi Toliver.

Parker scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds in a 74-61 win over Seattle on Tuesday to help Los Angeles sweep a home-and-home series with the Storm.

Parker, who scored 11 points in the opener, is looking to shake off an injury-plagued 2011, in which she was limited to 17 games while the Sparks missed the postseason for the first time since 2007.

So far, Toliver has been providing another scoring option to take the pressure off Parker. Toliver started and scored 18 points Tuesday after leading the team with 25 off the bench in a come-from-behind road victory Friday.

Toliver, who averaged a career-best 11.2 points in 2011, thinks the Sparks are going to learn from last season’s disappointing results.

“We’re making progress,” she said. “We’re making steps. We’re building forward. We’re getting wins and still making mistakes and learning. We feel pretty good that we’re able to learn and win at the same time.”

The Sparks will see how far they’ve come with this early matchup against the defending champs. Minnesota won four of five meetings last year, taking all three at home by an average of 16.3 points.

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Thursday, May 24