June 18, 2014

The Phoenix Mercury were favored to win the championship by a sizable margin in a preseason poll among WNBA general managers.

The Minnesota Lynx, though, look far more like the team to beat since the league's 20th season tipped off.

The Lynx will seek to improve to 4-0 while dropping the Mercury to 0-4 on Wednesday night in the second matchup between the teams in less than two weeks.

Phoenix was picked by seven of the 12 GMs to take the title while Minnesota finished a distant second with two votes despite being the defending champion. That result was likely based on the Mercury getting Diana Taurasi back from a year-long hiatus.

The seven-time All-Star and five-time scoring champion has displayed her usual high-level performance, averaging a league-best 24.3 points. The Mercury, though, struggled to slow down their first two opponents, giving up a combined 192 points.

Minnesota shot 54.1 percent in a 95-76 home win May 14 in the season opener for both teams.

Phoenix had a better effort Friday against Seattle but lost 81-80 in its home debut when the Storm's Jewell Loyd banked in a 12-foot shot with 2.9 seconds left.

"We have to keep working," coach Sandy Brondello said. "The games don't get any easier. We have to keep working. We have to make sure we stay together. We have to make sure we hold each other accountable."

The Mercury will try to avoid going 0-4 for the first time since 2008 and third time in franchise history. That was also the last time they dropped their first two home games.

That won't prove an easy task as Minnesota has charged out of the gates once again, starting 3-0 or better for the fourth time in five seasons. The Lynx are the league's only team to start 3-0 this year without needing overtime and topped Seattle 78-71 in their latest victory Sunday.

The result was a little closer than in their first two games, which they won by a combined 36 points while scoring a total of 192.

"There are several staple players that have been here for a while now, but we have a lot of new players," forward Maya Moore told the team's official website. "They're hungry to get it right, to get it together with those of us who have been here for a while. We want to make sure we're clicking on all cylinders."

Moore had 27 points and a career-high 10 assists in the win over Phoenix and Seimone Augustus chipped in 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Sylvia Fowles got the better of Brittney Griner in the paint, tallying 17 points and 14 rebounds, and the Lynx outperformed the Mercury on the boards 40-24.

Griner had 12 points and five rebounds in her team's fourth consecutive loss to Minnesota, including last year's Western Conference finals.

Moore scored 40 points as the Lynx snapped a seven-game skid in Phoenix with a 72-71 victory in the series clincher.

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