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Monday, August 8, 2011
The Lynx find a winning formula

By Michelle Smith

Minnesota Lynx guard Candice Wiggins said she came up with the motto as training camp began: "Teamwork makes the dream work." And so far it's working pretty well.

Coming off Sunday night's win in Los Angeles, the Lynx have won a franchise- record nine straight games. The team that had gone the previous six seasons without a WNBA playoff appearance owns the best record in the WNBA at 16-4. Minnesota also holds a four-game lead over second-place San Antonio in the Western Conference standings and is just a handful of games away from sealing a spot in the postseason.

Good health, an abundance of talent, strong chemistry and the addition of super- rookie Maya Moore has made this a "special" season so far, to use the word of head coach Cheryl Reeve.

"We believe that we are going to win every game we play in, and I think we've sent the message that we are the team to beat," Reeve said. "We've got that mindset and we've got to be able to perform at that level. Every night, it could be somebody different for us."

Indeed, it was veteran point guard Lindsay Whalen who scored 24 points against the Sparks on Sunday night. It is power forward Rebekkah Brunson who has become a double-double machine and an MVP candidate. Moore is making major contributions, while longer-time Lynx players like Wiggins, Seimone Augustus and Charde Houston are thrilled by the franchise's newfound dominance. The fans in Minnesota appear to feel the same way.

"People who are coming to see us for the first time are saying 'Oh my gosh, that was fun'," Wiggins said. "We are winning and we are winning a certain way. It's like this magic, and it's awesome for fans to witness, especially after so many years where they didn't have very much to be optimistic about."

Brunson was the player who set the tone for this season in its early days, opening the season with six straight double-doubles. Augustus has picked up the baton of late. She was named the Western Conference Player of the Month in July and leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points a game.

"Our success definitely has to do a lot with chemistry," Brunson said. "Last year, we had pieces, but we had injuries, and we never quite got to where we should have been. But we are in a really good spot and our confidence is great. The best thing is, I don't think we are playing our best basketball yet."

And yet they are playing some of the best basketball in the league. Minnesota leads the league in rebounding, rank No. 2 in scoring and No. 3 in scoring defense. Defense and rebounding are turning into transition baskets and an impressive fast-break game.

It all adds up to a regular season that's pointed toward the postseason for the first time in a long time.

"This team is pretty young, but we've got several players who have been here three, four, five years, when things weren't so good," Brunson said. "I think everybody got tired of being 'that' team. Everybody saw on opportunity this year, and we are taking advantage of it."