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The Lynx won 27 games this season -- one victory shy of the WNBA record. They turned the Western Conference race into a runaway, finishing in first place by six games.

They clinched the best record in the league on Sept. 2 -- a night they lost at home 78-62 to New York. That defeat is the Lynx's only one in the past 10 games. Two days later they stomped the Liberty 86-68 in its arena.

The Lynx certainly appear ready for the playoffs. They open a best-of-three conference semifinal series against San Antonio on Friday at Target Center.

Despite the Lynx's dominance, other WNBA coaches and women's basketball analysts are saying these playoffs don't have a favorite.

Even Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes was reserved in his praise of the Lynx in a WNBA teleconference call Tuesday.

"I'm not sure I've seen as many good teams in the playoffs -- I think this is my eighth one," Hughes said. "Arguably we're matched up with the best."

Arguably? That's no way to make sure the Lynx come into their opening series overconfident.

"We believe that this is going to be one of the most competitive WNBA playoffs [ever] not only in the East but in the West," said Indiana coach Lin Dunn, whose Fever (21-13) tied Connecticut for the best record in the Eastern Conference. "On any given night, anybody can beat anybody."

Connecticut coach Mike Thibault, also on Tuesday's call, agreed: "[The playoffs are] as wide open as I've ever seen it. There are a lot of teams with some very good records."

All eight teams in the playoffs this year have winning records for the first time since 2006.

When Phoenix visited the Lynx last month, coach Corey Gaines predicted the Mercury would beat the Lynx if they met in the playoffs. "We'll probably meet them down the line in the Western Conference championship[s]," Gaines said. "We've got veterans, though, so it should be good. We don't need home court."

Said ESPN's Rebecca Lobo: "Minnesota has the best record in the league, but Seattle is finally healthy. They were the team everybody picked at the beginning of the season because of their experience, having everybody back."

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has mixed feelings about the skepticism surrounding her team.

"We are still trying to prove the Minnesota Lynx are for real," Reeve said. "I can kind of understand the league is pretty balanced, but when you have a six-game lead on the nearest opponent, you would think there would be a little more respect there. We will certainly use that with our players. But we've got to prove it."

Seven more victories would prove it. That's how many the Lynx need to win the league title. Last year's defending WNBA champion Seattle was 28-6 during the regular season and 7-0 in the playoffs.

Eleven times in the past 14 years, the team with the WNBA's best regular-season record has reached the finals, eight times it has won the championship.

The Lynx have been a nonfactor in the playoffs, appearing only twice before in 12 years and exiting quickly. Los Angeles eliminated the Lynx 2-1 in 2003, Seattle swept them 2-0 in 2004. The Lynx have missed the playoffs the past six years.

That doesn't mean the Lynx lack playoff experience, though. Reeve was an assistant coach on two championship Detroit teams in 2006 and 2008. Also on the 2008 Shock team were two of her present players, center Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Alexis Hornbuckle. Forward Rebekkah Brunson was on Sacramento's 2005 champions. Point guard Lindsay Whalen played in two league finals with Connecticut in 2004 and '05.

That leaves seven players without a playoffs background.

No matter, Reeve said. "I can think of a number of teams that had zero playoff experience that went on to win championships," Reeve said, "namely the 2003 Detroit Shock."

Detroit's first championship team improved by a WNBA-record 16 victories. The Lynx have won 14 more games than last season and believe in themselves.

Forward Maya Moore listed the Lynx's strengths as defense, rebounding and shooting -- that about covers it all -- and the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We have everything we need to win a championship," Moore said.