It got especially hard the past few days. The Lynx, weeks into camp, were ready, waiting, watching other teams play.
They were impatient.
“We were like caged animals,” Maya Moore said. “Waiting to get unleashed. That, really, is what happened. We were unleashed tonight.”
With Moore and Seimone Augustus taking turns being unstoppable the Lynx — the last team to start their WNBA season — let their emotion spill out onto the Target Center court Saturday night. The result: A 90-74 victory over Connecticut (1-2) in a game that was exhilarating and sometimes exhaustingly intense.
Center Janel McCarville made her return to Minnesota, helping impact the game without taking a shot. But the story Saturday was Moore and Augustus — two of the team’s three Olympians — who took turns playing absurdly well. Moore finished with 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal. Augustus had 20, four, four and one. Together they shot 20-for-32 overall, 4-for-7 on three-pointers.
Try stopping that.
“Coach kind of called us bookends,” Augustus said. “Maya got one end, and I took the other. She had the first quarter, then I picked it up.”
And while Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve never is going to be completely satisfied with anything, she was happy with this.
“I told the team that was a great start to the 2013 journey,” Reeve said. “It’s been a long time since we played a game. As you could tell, we were pretty excited to play. … We knew the effort would be there. We just wanted the execution coupled with that.”
She got it. If last season ended on a down note with a loss in the WNBA Finals, this season started out well. The Lynx outscored the Sun in each of the first three quarters, had 24 assists on 37 baskets and just 10 turnovers. The Lynx had the edge in rebounds, doubled up the Sun on points in the paint and scored 17 points off 14 Connecticut turnovers. The Lynx are 7-2 in home openers, 9-6 in openers overall.
“They took it to us from the first quarter all the way through to the third until they put their bench in,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “They had their will and their way.”
Rebekkah Brunson scored 12 points. Lindsay Whalen had nine and four assists. Monica Wright came off the bench to score nine points with six rebounds and five assists.
And then there was Moore and Augustus.
First, Moore. She hit her first five shots and had 11 points before the game was 11 minutes old. Augustus, meanwhile, was scoreless in the first quarter, but had 20 points in the second and third quarters on 9-for-11 shooting.
“When you have the ability to run a couple plays for Maya and she’s hot, and then you run a couple for Seimone and you’re going back and forth?” Reeve asked. “That makes it challenging for perimeter defenders.”
The Lynx grew the lead to 25 points before Reeve emptied the bench late. It would have been more one-sided had Sun center Tina Charles (22 points, 10 rebounds) and guard Kara Lawson (22 points) not played so well.
As it was, the announced crowd of 9,223 — which included Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who was in town watching his old friend Wright — had plenty to be happy with.
“We started out being aggressive, attacking them, and we kept it up the whole game,” Whalen said. “Some people had great nights. It was just fun to get out and play with these guys again.”
“There was such a big buildup of energy the past few days,” Augustus said. “Just seeing other teams play. We were like, ‘Wow, we’re ready to get on the floor.’ Tonight, the first five minutes, it was so high intensity, everybody was gassed. But once we settled in you saw what Lynx basketball is going to be like this year.”