Six and a half minutes remained in a game against San Antonio that had been tighter, maybe, than it should have been when Lynx guard Seimone Augustus went to work.
Top of the key, ball in her hand, shot clock winding down. Augustus did a behind-the-back crossover, stepped back and hit a 19-footer. Swish.
“I was on the scorers’ table for that one,” Lindsay Whalen said. “Pretty nice to see.”
“That,” said Maya Moore, “was fun.”
On the bench, Janel McCarville was standing before the shot even went up. “I could see something was coming,” she said.
Minnesota’s 88-78 victory over the Stars at Target Center on Friday night might not have been as pretty as that particular play. Coach Cheryl Reeve lauded her team for sharing the ball, for its offensive efficiency, but bemoaned the inconsistent defense; the regular season is winding down, and Reeve is shifting to playoff mode.
But it was a watershed moment. It was the first time all season Minnesota’s starting five were completely healthy. Augustus had missed the past eight games — a third of her team’s season — battling left knee bursitis pain. It was, in her own words, one of the most frustrating stretches of her career. When she hit that jumper, the message was clear: She’s back.
“I’m just thankful to be out there on the floor,” she said. “To be back there with my teammates, the excitement of the crowd?”
Augustus was so excited, she was short of breath and a little out of sorts at the start. When was the last time you saw her throw up an air ball? But she was there at the end. She scored six of the first eight points in an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter that put the Lynx up 12 and in control. She scored 17 points, had six assists, four rebounds.
She was one of six Lynx players who scored in double figures, including Whalen (14), Moore (12), McCarville (11), Rebekkah Brunson and Monica Wright (10 each). That was enough to give Minnesota (19-6) its sixth consecutive victory and eighth in nine games. Danielle Robinson’s 15 points paced the Stars, who fell to 12-13.
That the game was close was due in large part to inconsistent Lynx defense, as Reeve was quick to point out. “I’m happy to get the win,” she said. “But at this point in the season, where it has to look different for us [is] defensively.”
Eventually, it did. Through three quarters the Stars shot nearly 50 percent. But that dropped to 31.8 percent in the fourth.
There were other bright spots. Backup post players Devereaux Peters and Damiris Dantas combined for 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Add Wright in there and the Lynx bench, which scored only eight points in Tuesday’s double-OT victory over Atlanta, had 24 Friday.
But the highlight of the night was Augustus. She started slow, finished strong. And that nasty behind-the-back step-back? It completely locked up her defender. And, as it turned out, herself, too. The team has an informal punishment system for players who are too fancy, which is why Moore is still in “jail” for her 48 points Tuesday. And that’s why Augustus was loath to talk about the play.
“I got fined,” she said. “I got put in jail for the crossover. So don’t print it in the papers; I don’t want to have to pay any more fines.”
• The Lynx wore pink uniforms to increase breast cancer awareness. The game-worn jerseys were auctioned off for charity afterward, and a total of $27,300 was raised. Moore’s brought the most — $6,500.