SAN ANTONIO - The Lynx were playing terrible.
Coach Cheryl Reeve knew it, and the players certainly knew it, but they weren’t quite sure how to overcome such a poor start against the San Antonio Stars in Game 2 of the Western Conference playoffs.
Thankfully for Minnesota, Lindsay Whalen bullied San Antonio aside and pulled her teammates along.
Whalen had a career playoff-high 31 points, helping the Lynx overcome a slow start and rally past the Stars for a 94-89 victory Saturday night, sweeping their first-round series.
“Lindsay got us going in the second quarter when she had enough of the way we were playing,” Reeve said. “She was contagious in such a positive way.”
The Lynx will play the winner between Phoenix and Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.
Seimone Augustus added 21 points, Maya Moore had 16 and Janel McCarville 10 for the defending WNBA champions.
But the balanced scoring only came after Whalen took it upon herself to get the team going after the Lynx fell behind by 18 points in the first 6 minutes.
Minnesota opened the game shooting 2-for-9 with three turnovers. Making matters worse was that the Stars were penetrating at will against the Lynx.
The Stars rolled to a 22-4 lead and closed the first quarter up 28-12.
“When you’re in it, you’re trying to figure out what to do,” Whalen said. “I feel like one of the things we could focus on was getting in the paint.
“Coach was talking to me the first two days about being aggressive and looking to score.”
And Whalen did.
She had 12 points in the second quarter, sinking three of four shots and making all six free throws as she kept rolling off her defender to the basket.
She scored six straight points by attacking the interior to pull 34-22 with 7:16 left in the first half.
“Offensively, we call [Whalen] the bully,” Augustus said. “She just kind of puts her head down, goes to the basket and looks for contact. If she gets a call, she gets to the free throw and knocks it down, but if not, she plays through it. And that’s been her mentality the entire year, just be aggressive. Tonight it was just contagious, once she got going, myself got going, Maya got going, JMac got going. All of us had that aggressive mentality that she had.”
She was 11-for-17 from the field, rolling to the basket for a series of off-balance layups and short jumpers that San Antonio could not defend. The Stars attempted to slow Whalen with taller defenders, but that only opened up a two-person game for Augustus and Moore.
“We obviously gave a lot of attention to Seimone and Maya early in the basketball game,” Stars coach Dan Hughes said. “But [Whalen’s] physicality as a point guard was difficult for us. … They played to her in the paint, and we didn’t do a good job of keeping her out of the paint, to Lindsay’s credit. That’s why she is an Olympian, because she can do those things against all levels.”
Kayla McBride led San Antonio with 25 points and Danielle Adams had 23 points.
Becky Hammon had 12 points and four assists in her final game. She is retiring after 16 seasons in the WNBA and will become the first female to serve as a full-time NBA assistant coach when she joins the staff of the San Antonio Spurs.