Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury are closing in on one of the greatest records in WNBA history, the Los Angeles Sparks’ 18-game winning streak.
To equal that mark, the Mercury need to win two more games, starting with defending champion Minnesota on Thursday night.
The Lynx have dominated Phoenix recently, winning 14 straight over the Mercury from 2011-13.
Phoenix finally was able to end that skid this year, taking the first two games from the defending champions, which started off this current 16-game run.
Still, that Lynx team wasn’t at 100 percent yet with stars Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus missing the games because of injuries.
“Everyone keeps bringing it up,” said Griner, whose offseason playing experience this past winter in China was documented in a video – Lifesize – by ESPN as part of the network’s IX for IX series that debuted Wednesday morning.
“They weren’t at their full strength, they are now. It’s a good test for us against a very good team in this league.”
Griner is well aware of winning streaks and how they don’t mean much if the end results isn’t a championship. When she was in college her Baylor Lady Bears went 40-0 en route to the school’s second national championship.
“Who cares about a streak if you don’t win a championship,” Griner said. “It’s all about championships. If we do win one, this streak will just be icing on the cake.”
While the Mercury aren’t focused on the current streak, other teams and the league have taken notice of their success. The game on Thursday, which wasn’t originally scheduled to be national televised will be on NBA TV now.
“They are one of the best offensive teams I’ve seen in this league,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “They can score from so many different positions, but also play really solid defense now as well.”
Thibault said that what made some of the dominant teams special in the past was that they were able to win championships.
Los Angeles went on to win the 2001 title and then were champions again in 2002. The Houston Comets won the WNBA’s first four titles.
Here are five comparisons of the two teams during their streaks:
FRONTRUNNERS: The Mercury have led games for nearly 83 percent of the time during their streak with the biggest deficit only being 13 points. Phoenix has only trailed for just over nine minutes in the fourth quarter of those games. Los Angeles led for 73 percent of the time during its run, the WNBA said according to information provided by the Elias Sports Bureau.
STAR POWER: Lisa Leslie averaged 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds to earn the league’s MVP award. She also was the All-Star MVP and postseason MVP to become the first female player to win all three awards in the same season. Taurasi and Griner are putting up MVP-type numbers this year, but neither was the All-Star MVP with that award going to Atlanta rookie Shoni Schimmel.
HOME COOKING: The Sparks went 16-0 at home that season to become the first team to go unbeaten at home. Seattle accomplished the feat in 2010. Phoenix has been nearly as good, winning 12 of its 13 games at home this season.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Of the Sparks’ 18 wins, six came away from home during their run. If the Mercury can beat Minnesota they’ll have won eight road games. While Los Angeles had to play one game in Washington, Phoenix hasn’t had to come to the East Coast during its streak. After playing the Lynx, the Mercury return home to face the Indiana Fever before taking on Atlanta in a potential record-breaking game on Tuesday night.
LEAGUE SIZE: Not to diminish the Sparks’ streak at all, but the league had 16 teams in 2001, now there are just 12 in the WNBA meaning that each team’s talent pool has increased.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg