ADVERTISEMENT

Seimone Augustus is looking to score rather than deferring, as her coach has asked.

STACY BENGS • Associated Press,

As Augustus looks to shoot more, Lynx benefit

  • Article by: Kent Youngblood
  • Star Tribune
  • June 6, 2014 - 12:52 AM

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has a philosophy. To her, it is very, very difficult to find a bad Seimone Augustus shot. Whether it means shooting a jumper, driving off a crossover, hitting her patented floater or posting up a shorter guard, Reeve is almost always of the opinion that Augustus should shoot more.

“Matter of fact, it’s when she’s not assertive that we kind of jump on her a little bit,” Reeve said.

Which is just what happened in Sunday’s victory at San Antonio, in the second half of a one-point game. Reeve had pulled Augustus from the game early in the third period because she was deferring too much.

Reinserted into the game late in the quarter, Augustus scored on three consecutive possessions, two layups with a jumper in-between, in the final 79 seconds of the quarter, a personal 6-0 run. Augustus finished with a season-high 25 points.

Perhaps obscured a bit by Maya Moore’s blazing start to the season is that Augustus is also off to one the best starts of her career. She is shooting 55.6 percent overall, her best ever, including 59.8 percent on two-point shots. Her 19.1 scoring average is fourth best in the league and her highest since 2009.

This is somewhat out of necessity.

The Lynx started the season without three of their top seven players in their rotation because of injuries to Rebekkah Brunson, Devereaux Peters and Monica Wright. Brunson is gone probably until after the All-Star break. Peters has been back for two games, but is playing sparingly. Wright is improving and could return in about a week.

But, without them, all three of the Lynx stars have done more. Both Moore (27.6) and guard Lindsay Whalen (16.3) are averaging career highs in points. Moore is leading the league, Whalen is 10th.

But Reeve said she was trying to push Augustus to do more even before the injuries arose. The two talked at length during an exit interview after last season about Augustus doing more.

She listened.

“Seimone came back with a great mindset,” Reeve said. “She came back from Russia [where she plays during the fall and winter] really ready to play. Oftentimes it takes players who play year-round, when they make a transition, to maybe take their time. But Seimone had great recognition of what her team needed.’’

It has not come without a price. Both Moore (36.3) and Augustus (34.0) are averaging season highs in minutes per game and Whalen (31.3) is not far behind. Augustus, her knee sore, was given a day off from practice this week.

But, come game time, Augustus is ready.

“I’m still getting to my bread and butter, which is my jump shot,” Augustus said. “I’m being aggressive, getting to the basket a little more; I’ve only made one three-pointer all year [1-for-10], so I feel have some work to do on that end. But the offense has been so efficient. And Maya has been scoring like crazy, so people have to focus more on her. And on Whalen, too. My life is a lot easier when they’re playing like that.”

That has left a little more room for Augustus to find her shot. She has been clutch in late-game situations, with her jumper that forced overtime in the home opener vs. Connecticut being the biggest example.

The result has been a remarkably efficient 7-0 start that has come despite injuries and because of an ability to win close games. Four of the team’s victories have been by eight points or fewer, three by three points or fewer.

That late-game execution is one reason Reeve feels the team is far ahead of where it was two seasons ago, when the Lynx set a WNBA record with 10 wins to start the season. That team was winning, but things didn’t seem right. This team?

“It’s night and day,” Reeve said. “I feel we are more locked in.”

And Augustus is a big reason why.

© 2014 Star Tribune