The first half was difficult for Maya Moore.
One shot after another, missed. Jumpers, drives, pull-ups, clang, clang, clang. For 20 minutes Moore — who came a breath away from an MVP award Thursday — was a microcosm of a Lynx team struggling to find a rhythm.
And then: dagger.
After two quarters of disconnect, a half of dominance. The result was an 80-64 victory over Seattle at Target Center in the first game of their best-of-three WNBA Western Conference semifinal series.
Moore, 1-for-9 to start the game, was 5-for-6 in the second half, including a step-back three-pointer in the closing moments of the third quarter that killed Seattle’s notion of an upset. And, as has happened so often this season, the Lynx (27-8) mirrored Moore.
Minnesota allowed Seattle (17-18) to shoot nearly 52 percent in the first half, which ended with the Lynx holding a four-point lead. In the second half, the Lynx clamped down, holding the Storm to 11-for-29 shooting, turning that defense into a resurgent offense.
Moore finished with 17 points, six assists, three steals. Veterans Seimone Augustus, intense from the start, and Rebekkah Brunson — who was named to the league’s all-defensive second team Friday — scored 19 and 17 points, respectively. It was a tale of two halves that must have included a doozie of a halftime speech by Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, right?
“What part can I share with you?’’ joked Reeve, who turned 47 on Friday, about a talk that might have included some salty language. But, in a nutshell: Reeve wasn’t happy with defensive lapses in the first half, including a breakdown late in the second quarter after the Lynx had built a nine-point lead. It was time for the Lynx to use some defense to change the game’s tone.
And then the third quarter happened.
Up four, the Lynx put on a 6-0 spurt. Janel McCarville scored on a put-back. Then Lindsay Whalen’s steal turned into two Brunson free throws. And then Brunson fed Augustus for a layup and the lead was 10.
It was still at 10 late in the quarter when the Lynx got the dagger. With 33.3 seconds left, Monica Wright (nine points) hit a three-pointer, Minnesota’s first of the game. After a Storm miss, Moore stepped back and hit another three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to push the lead to 62-48 entering the fourth quarter.
And that was it, a 22-12 third quarter that pretty much settled the game, with Moore scoring nine of the points, Augustus six.
“That’s what they do to you,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “When you turn the ball over, they can score on you quick.”
Minnesota, 5-0 vs. the Storm this season, is the only home team to win its series-opening game. Indeed, after watching Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta all get upset, Reeve’s mantra of not overlooking the Storm took hold. “Upset City doesn’t live here, in Minneapolis,” she said.
Not yet, despite 14 points from Storm guard Temeka Johnson and a Seattle defense intent on slowing the Lynx down.
Minnesota improved its home playoff record to 10-1 since 2011. The two teams will meet at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Tacoma Dome in the second game.
“It’s a closeout situation,” Augustus said. “It’s who wants it more. We know they’ll be hungry. They lose and they go home. They’ll give it their best shot. We just have to maintain the consistency we had on offense.”