It's very possible the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm will meet in the opening round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Oddly, these teams are now beginning what may seem like a playoff series.
Tina Thompson and the rejuvenated Storm play their next three games against Maya Moore and the league-best Lynx, starting Saturday night in Minneapolis.
The Storm (15-14) own the Western Conference's fourth and final playoff spot but are within percentage points of Phoenix for third place. Minnesota (21-7) is atop the West with a one-game lead on Los Angeles.
Before a possible first-round postseason rematch in a few weeks -- the Lynx ousted Seattle 2-1 last year -- the teams will meet three times in the next 11 days. Following Saturday's matchup, the Storm don't play again until hosting Minnesota on Aug. 7 and 10. The Lynx's only other game before heading to Seattle is against Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"We're going to do the best we can to rest up and prepare for Minnesota for these next three games," Seattle's Camille Little said Thursday after scoring 18 points in a 78-65 win over Connecticut. "It's going to be tough, but we have two at home and we're going to try to get one on the road."
The bad news for the Storm is that Minnesota would have home-court advantage for a potential playoff series, and they've lost eight straight in Minneapolis -- including the postseason -- since July 17, 2010. That's where the teams' only meeting this season was played, and the Lynx cruised to a 90-72 victory Aug. 4.
Thompson was held to 12 points that day but has gotten on a roll, helping push Seattle above .500 for the first time since June 21. The Storm have won five of six as the 38-year-old Thompson has averaged 19.0 points and 8.2 rebounds.
"She's a leader and a winner," coach Brian Agler said. "If there's one word I could say about her it's she's a winner. It's all about winning, playing well and focus. She's putting her stamp on this team."
That's what Moore has done for Minnesota. The reigning WNBA player of the week was held to 11 points in the Lynx's only game this week after averaging 23.3 in the previous eight games, but she grabbed 10 rebounds and keyed a 73-47 win at New York on Tuesday.
"She was struggling offensively but found different ways to impact the game," coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Deflections, hustle plays, she's a winner and that's what winners do."
Lindsay Whalen led the Lynx with 18 points Tuesday, and she scored 22 in the first meeting with Seattle while Seimone Augustus added 18 and Moore had 16. Shekinna Stricklen paced Seattle with 24 points.
Moore, who scored a career-high 35 in Saturday's win over Indiana, has lifted the Lynx to three straight wins following a 1-4 slump.
"You always have to find ways to help your team," Moore said. "Sometimes it's scoring, but it's always working hard."