20th Season Memories: Two Decades of Home Openers

When the Lynx host the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday, they’ll be defending a seven-year win streak in their home openers. Headed into their 20th season of WNBA basketball, the Lynx have a record of 14-5 in their first home game of the season. The Lynx have the best fans in the WNBA (I’m not biased at all), so it’s no surprise they tend to get a lift from their crowd, all of whom are overjoyed to be back in Target Center, but the streak is still impressive.

Maya Moore handles the ball during the Lynx’s 2016 home opener against the Phoenix Mercury.

This year is extra special because the Lynx will be hosting the Sparks—their biggest rival and the team that they beat in the WNBA finals last year. The last time the Lynx opened their season playing a team that they sent home in the playoffs the previous year was in 2012, when they beat Phoenix 105-83 after defeating the Mercury in the Western Conference Finals in 2011.

Seimone Augustus passes under pressure during the Lynx’s 2011 home-opening game on June 5, 2011.

Over the course of their win streak, the Lynx have outscored opponents by an average of 13.43 points per game. That’s an impressive margin of victory, although the average is certainly helped by the 22-point blowout of Phoenix in 2012 and a dominant 86-69 defeat of the Sparks in 2011.

Lindsay Whalen grabs the rebound against Nakia Sanford of the Phoenix Mercury in the Lynx’s season-opening game on May 20, 2012.

But things weren’t always so positive. Before the Lynx dynasty was established, Minnesota had more mixed results in their home openers, though those years weren’t without highlights.

In 1999, the Lynx won their first-ever home game 68-51 versus the Detroit Shock (now the Dallas Wings). The team drew 12,122 fans to Target Center to witness the birth of the franchise. In their inaugural season, the Lynx were led by Tonya Edwards and Brandy Reed, as well as future Lynx star Katie Smith.

View of the opening game tip-off between the Minnesota Lynx and the Detroit Shock at the Target Center on June 12, 1999, the Lynx’s first game as a WNBA franchise.

The Lynx won their home opener in 2000 but dropped their next two before getting back in the win column in 2003. That game was a one-point victory over Sacramento in Suzie McConnell Serio’s coaching debut, and Teresa Edwards’ first game as a member of the Lynx.

Head coach Suzie McConnell Serio of the Minnesota Lynx watches the game against the Sacramento Monarchs at Target Center on May 24, 2003. The Lynx won 72-71.

Seimone Augustus had to wait until 2008 to get a home opener win after being drafted in 2006 but has played a key part in the Lynx’s ongoing seven-year run. Teammates Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles are undefeated in home openers.

While at the end of the season, a home-opener victory is just another number in the win column, it’s hard to argue that these wins don’t feel a little special. The Lynx faithful have to weather an entire cold Minnesota winter without Lynx basketball, so it’s nice to welcome them home with a victory.