Patrick Reusse
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Go back five years and you can find Star Tribune references to the Lynx's "playoff run." This consisted of a victory over the Los Angeles Sparks followed by two losses. They were alive in the playoffs for a total of five days.

The Lynx made another playoff appearance in 2004 and went two-and-out against Seattle.

That's it in the franchise's nine prior summers: 1-4 in two playoffs appearances and seven years among the WNBA's also-rans.

The 2008 Lynx have provided early evidence that if a team is bad enough for long enough, it has no choice to get better, because of all those prime draft choices.

Seimone Augustus was the No. 1 overall selection in 2006. Lindsey Harding (currently injured) was the No. 1 overall selection in 2007. Candice Wiggins was the No. 3 overall selection this April.

"They are going to be a great team," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "They have some players who are very tough to handle."

The Lynx were 6-1, with the only loss coming by 78-77 Friday at Connecticut. Thibault had his Sun at Target Center for a rematch on Tuesday night.

This time, the Sun took Augustus out of her game (4-for-13, 11 points) and pulled away late for an easier victory -- 75-66.

There were a couple of attractions for potential ticket buyers: One, the first Lynx roster with the potential to make an actual playoff run; and two, another return home for Connecticut's Lindsay Whalen, the young woman who took a Gophers sport from invisible to a phenomenon in her four seasons at Minnesota.

Following tradition, the Lynx again counted legs rather than torsos and announced a crowd of 7,186. The gathering wasn't large, although it was more enthusiastic than those small, mummified audiences that followed Glen Taylor's Timberwolves down the stretch of the latest season of misery.

The owner arrived late and missed some early bricklaying by his other basketball holding, then Taylor joined in the cheering as the Lynx put together a 13-0 stretch for a 37-28 halftime lead.

Asked about the Lynx' 23-10 advantage in the second period, Thibault said: "That's what we gave them when we threw the ball to them more than we threw it to us."

Whalen was part of the Sun's first-half disaster. She was 2-for-8 from the field, including a couple of airballs when she tried spin-o-rama jump shots.

"I suggested at halftime that Lindsay take those shots out of her repertoire for the night," Thibault said.

Whalen's night took a turn late in the third period. The Sun had chopped the lead to 44-43, due to the efforts of nine-year veteran Tamika Whitmore and second-year guard Barbara Turner.

Whalen then went into traffic, was bounced around, the ball came loose and there was no foul call. Wiggins hustled to the other end, went into the lane and wound up at the free-throw line.

As Wiggins was getting ready for the free throws, Thibault and Whalen both worked over referee Scott Twardoski.

"He said that Charde [Houston] had legal position and that's why it wasn't a foul," Whalen said later, with a shrug.

Not surprisingly, our gal from Hutchinson chose resolve over discouragement. She went harder to the basket and wound up with two free throws.

Whalen followed with a driving layup that produced a 55-55 tie with seven minutes left. She drove for two more baskets in the next three minutes as the visitors started to take control.

"It was a night when my jump shot wasn't falling," she said. "I had to get something going to help us offensively."

Whalen went 5-for-15 from the field and finished with 14 points. Those eight points on drives came when the game was being decided. She also remained the WNBA's best rebounding guard, with eight on the defensive board.

"She's very strong and doesn't get knocked off balance too much," Thibault said. "She's a good jumper and has great instincts where the ball is going to come off the rim or backboard.

"Some guards have it. Some don't. She just does."

Thibault paused, smiled and said: "That hockey body helps, too."

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •