Seems just like old times, doesn’t it?
With a take-no-prisoners defense and a relentless offense, the Lynx began their quest for a second WNBA title in three years Sunday with an 84-59 dismantling of Atlanta in the first game of the best-of-five series, a rematch of a Lynx sweep of the Dream in the title series two years ago.
It was a first punch, both literally and figuratively, a physical statement of purpose that came within four points of matching the biggest win in WNBA Finals history. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called it just a step in the right direction. Atlanta coach Fred Williams said his team had been a step slow all night.
Maya Moore hit 10 of 16 shots on the way to a game-high 23 points. Seimone Augustus scored 19 and Monica Wright came off the Lynx bench and stuffed the stat sheet like a calzone. She scored a career playoff-best 20 points, had five rebounds, three assists, three steals and she took two charges.
“My teammates have all the confidence in the world in me,” Wright said, “and it was just falling tonight.”
Wright, Moore and Augustus combined to outscore the Dream by three points.
“Minnesota came out and threw a good punch,” Williams said. “And a lot of players on our end hit the floor pretty hard and felt the pain.”
Said Augustus: “Tonight was crazy. By far the best of the year.’’
With Rebekkah Brunson leading the way, the Lynx defense held McCoughtry — the two-time league leading scorer — to 17 points on 6-for-24 shooting. Atlanta lives with dribble penetration; the Lynx refused to allow it. The Lynx shot nearly 50 percent, the Dream shot 31.2, going 0-for-15 on three-pointers. Atlanta was fairly effective in the paint, scoring 44 points. But the Dream shot 2-for-36 outside the paint.
“It happens,” McCoughtry said. “Everybody has cold days. This was a cold day today. We’ll get in the gym, get some shots up and we’ll shoot better on Tuesday.”
It all turned on a monster 15-0 run that began with 5:30 left in the second quarter and the Lynx up by six. Over the next 3 minutes and 40 seconds Wright and Augustus each scored twice, Lindsay Whalen had a three-point play and five players scored in all in a run that pushed the lead to 21.
“It happened so fast I didn’t realize it,” Reeve said.
Said Augustus: “The vibe was great. The movement, the energy, everything felt like we were where we wanted to be.’’
Midway through the third quarter it appeared the Dream might creep back into the game, but a 12-0 run that started late in the third and bled into the fourth put an end to that.
So now the Dream will try to pick up the pieces and the Lynx will try to keep up the pace in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. Game 2. A year ago it was the Lynx trying to rebound from a Game 1 loss.
“We took that personal,” Moore said of that loss to Indiana, which set in motion a four-game loss to the Fever in the finals. “If you look at the way our season has kind of played out, you can tell we’re all trying to make a different ending to this season.”