Seimone Augustus was on the bench, enjoying the view, wearing a boot on her injured left ankle, watching with interest as her Lynx teammates more than picked up the slack.
“I had fun,” she admitted.
Playing without one of their stars, but clearly playing with a purpose, the Lynx offered the 8,623 fans at Target Center a lesson in team basketball, help defense and offensive precision in a 94-72 victory over the Atlanta Dream — the team that at 10-2 holds the WNBA’s best record.
It was a victory earned with absurdly efficient play by the Lynx (9-3).
Without Augustus, Monica Wright stepped into the starting lineup and scored 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting while taking the main responsibility for guarding Atlanta star Angel McCoughtry, who needed 19 shots to score 16 points.
Maya Moore hit seven of eight shots while scoring 19 points. Lindsay Whalen had 20 points, five assists, no turnovers. Rebekka Brunson had yet another double-double.
“I think we’ve had a pretty solid week,” Moore said.
That doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Against the league’s best defensive team the Lynx scored 94 points (by 13 the most the Dream has allowed), shot 51.5 percent (no team had reached 45 percent vs. Atlanta this season), roaring out of the gate in each of the first three quarters; Atlanta never got off its heels.
The only way this game could have been more impressive was if the Lynx hadn’t allowed the Dream to dominate on the offensive boards in the first half. But coach Cheryl Reeve, of course, took care of that at halftime.
“Coach yelled at us,” Janel McCarville said of Reeve’s speech at halftime, with her team up 17. “I’m not lying. She came in yelling at us.”
When it was over, there was nothing to yell about. Remember a week ago? The Lynx came back from Los Angeles after a 30-point loss to the Sparks. Since then? In two home games over three nights the Lynx have beaten the stuffing out of two of the WNBA’s hottest teams (they beat Phoenix at home on Sunday), iced two of the league’s best players (Sunday it was Diana Taurasi) and won by a combined 54 points while running the franchise record for consecutive home victories to 15 games.
So, given the competition and the results the past two games, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Lynx — still in first place in the Western Conference — might not be the league’s best team right now.
“Well, technically, Atlanta has the best record,” Reeve said. “So they’re the best team in the league, record-wise.”
True, the Lynx will have to prove they can do this on the road, and they’ll get their chance — likely without Augustus — with games in Indiana on Thursday and Tulsa on Saturday.
When a water main broke early Tuesday morning, cutting off the water supply to Target Center, it appeared for a short while the game might be in danger; the Lynx quietly checked to see if places such as Williams Arena or Xcel Energy Center might be available. But, in the end, the water was restored with plenty of time to play.
And the Lynx spent the rest of the evening supplying the pressure.
“Any time one of our teammates goes down, we take it upon ourselves to do more,” Wright said. “Those are tough shoes to fill. We wanted to make sure we got that win for Seimone tonight.”
Mission accomplished. But again, is there a better WNBA team at the moment?
“I think we’re pretty tough at home,” McCarville said. “We understand what needs to happen. We need to put it together on the road, then you can start talking. But, at home, we’re pretty tough.”