Seimone Augustus of the Lynx and Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream put on a display of shooting and maneuvering in the first half Wednesday night that provided a fabulous advertisement for this top level of women's basketball.
McCoughtry was 8-for-9 from the field and scored 24 points. Augustus was 8-for-10 and scored 19. The Dream held a 58-50 lead, shooting 59.5 percent to 51.5 percent for the Lynx.
And then came the second half, when Sue Blauch, Kurt Walker and Lamont Simpson put on a display of officiating that made witnesses question whether they would ever want to see another basketball game -- women's, men's or Globetrotter.
The trio called 35 fouls in the second half for a total of 56. The teams shot 50 free throws in the second half for a total of 78.
In the end, the Lynx dominated the fourth quarter for the second time in this series to take a 2-0 lead. The final was 101-95, and the Lynx now have three chances for another victory and their first title after a previously dreary 12-year existence in Minnesota.
The Lynx made the playoffs only once in those dozen years, and won a single playoff game. They were rewarded for their ineptitude with the chance to take Augustus first overall in 2006, and they had that going for them again this April in taking Maya Moore.
The presence of a fully healthy Augustus and the ultra-talented Moore lifted the Lynx from bottom feeding to the WNBA's best record at 27-7 -- and now they are 6-1 in the playoffs, with a five-game winning streak.
McCoughtry is a magnificent offensive player for the Dream, but Augustus matched her Wednesday, and eventually the Lynx (and the whistles) were too much for the visitors.
McCoughtry did her damage on free throws in the second half and finished with 38. Augustus also lived at the line in the second half and finished with 36.
It was sad what happened to the wondrous first-half shootout between this gifted pair of athletes, but after intermission, Blauch, Walker and Simpson got busy calling real fouls, touch fouls and why's-that-a-foul? fouls.
Moore was not much of a factor, playing only 16 minutes because of foul trouble that started early and stuck to her all night. She took only six shots, one free throw and finished with eight points.
No matter, Moore said, because the 32-18 advantage in the fourth quarter has her first pro team on the brink of a title.
Asked about the Lynx's fourth-quarter domination, Moore said: "I give the credit to our vets. They are playing with a sense of urgency. There was some talk when the playoffs started about us not having the experience, but when you see what our vets are doing with games on the line, I don't see a lack of experience."
Moore knew about McCoughtry in college, when Maya was starting out at UConn and Angel was lighting it up for Louisville.
"She's talented and aggressive, and she's going to score," Moore said. "So far, we've been able to overcome that and win two games."
Moore paused and said: "We can't let her get as comfortable as she was tonight, though. That's not acceptable."
Actually, McCoughtry followed the 8-for-9 first half by misfiring often in the second half. She went 2-for-13 from the field.
"Yeah, but Angel got to the line," Moore said. "That's part of scoring, too."
It was a big part Wednesday. McCoughtry went 10-for-14 at the line in the second half, and Augustus was 11-for-13.
How about your foul trouble?
"It's tough to deal with ... frustrating," Moore said. "You want to be on the floor, helping your team. But I can't sit there and mope. I have to give positive energy, whether I'm on the floor or sitting with foul trouble. It's not about me. It's about winning.
"And we did that tonight, because our vets wouldn't be denied."
There were 56 fouls called tonight? "No," said Moore, shaking her head.
Then, her lips moved slightly to form a sentence, then another, but no words came out. Any comment was kept to herself, proving that Maya Moore is a smart young lady as well as talented.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN.firstname.lastname@example.org