Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven't ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and '13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.
The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn't end in Minneapolis, either -- at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.
Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota's season alive.
To do that, the Lynx hope to get off to a better start than they have in their past two games. They went down 22-4 at San Antonio but won the clinching game of that West semifinal series 94-89. They trailed Phoenix 9-0 Friday. And while the Lynx answered that initial surge, they subsequently weren't able to keep pace with the talented Mercury.
"Both teams want to push the ball in transition, so it's really critical that we're really tight on offense," Minnesota's Maya Moore said. "The first five minutes of the game, there's going to be a lot of energy, a lot happening. But we want to make sure we don't let that rush us."
Moore, the league's MVP and leading scorer this season, had just nine points Friday, her lowest output of the season. Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said she wanted to review video of the game before stating with certainty the key to Moore's struggles. But she had a pretty good idea.
"Early in the game, I thought Maya didn't have an understanding of what was available," Reeve said. "I thought Phoenix's team defense was really good, so when Maya had openings, they closed quickly."
Moore wasn't happy with her play, but she also doesn't think the Lynx have to completely re-tool how they want to attack Phoenix. They just have to be the team that Moore knows they can be.
"There are going to be opening for us, but we have to find those better," Moore said. "When we get good things, it's because we have ball movement, a lot of assists. That's who we are and what we want to do on Sunday. Our identity was just in bits and pieces [Friday]."
Point guard Lindsay Whalen led the Lynx in scoring in the past two games, with 31 against San Antonio and 25 against Phoenix. And while Whalen definitely can do it, her having to carry such a large scoring load generally is not a good sign for Minnesota's offense.
The Lynx also were dominated on the boards Friday 45-31. Add that to Minnesota's 39.7 percent field-goal percentage, and that's a bad combination for the Lynx. Especially against the offensive power of Phoenix.
Meanwhile, the Mercury would love to close out this series on the road and advance via sweep to the franchise's third appearance in the WNBA Finals. They lost their most recent trip to Minnesota 75-67 on July 31, but that's just one of two losses the Mercury have experienced in the past 2½ months.
Now for the Lynx to make their fourth consecutive WNBA Finals appearance, they'll have to beat the Mercury twice in just three days.
Still, Phoenix is expecting to get Minnesota's best shot Sunday.
"We know the intensity is going to go up," said Brittney Griner, who led Phoenix with 23 points Friday. "You have to stay on them, try to frustrate them, and stay locked in."