When needed, Lynx's Augustus rises to the challenge

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2014 - 12:53 AM

After a regular season made difficult by injuries, she stood out down the stretch of a playoff victory.

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Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus (33) pushes the ball up to the basket against San Antonio Stars forward Danielle Adams (23) during the first half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball Western Conference semifinal, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Photo: Stacy Bengs, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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A little more than 2 minutes remained in Thursday’s playoff game against San Antonio, a game the Lynx had been in control of just moments before, a game the Lynx were in danger of losing.

Stars forward Danielle Adams had just bulled her way to a rebound and a put-back that cut a three-point Lynx lead to one.

For the next 90 seconds, Seimone Augustus took over. She took a pass from Lindsay Whalen and hit a 19-footer for a three-point lead. A minute later, she took a pass from Maya Moore and hit a 17-footer, then, on the team’s next possession, another basket, a 16-footer from a Whalen pass with 33.5 seconds left.

“It was awesome, her out there making shots,” Whalen said afterward. “That’s why they call her Money Mone.’’

The Lynx needed all of that, and more, to hold off the Stars, who kept coming. They needed Whalen’s two free throws with 18.7 seconds left, and another two by Moore to seal the win in the first game of the best-of-three series.

But it is significant that, late in the game, with the Stars committing more players than ever to slow Moore, Augustus was able to step up and make the plays. “I had to push it,” she said. “I started off slowly in the first half, picked it up in the second. But the fourth quarter is go-time.’’

On a night when Moore was magnificent from start to finish — the league posted a highlight reel of her game on Youtube.com — it was nice to see Augustus playing like she did. It’s been a difficult summer for the longtime Lynx star. She started well, but as the season progressed she started feeling pain in her left knee. She missed a game, then returned. In late July it got so bad that she was forced to miss nearly a month. She returned from that, too. But, late in the season with her left knee swollen, the team went to San Antonio to play without her.

“I’ve been through hell,” Augustus said. “I mean, it can’t get any worse than what I’ve been through.” To her, the biggest problem was not just the constant aching in her knee. It was not knowing if and when it would go away.

“Being able to play, not being able to play,” she said. “It’s here one day, not the next. I’ve tried to stay the course. They kept trying to tell me it was going to get better. And, finally, it has.’’

This is important. For, as good as Moore has become, the Lynx need the second half of the duo the team calls “the bookends’’ to be playing well for the team to move forward in the playoffs.

“Yes, they need me,” Augustus admitted. “We need each other. I make Maya’s job a lot easier. Maya makes my job a lot easier. Whalen, too.’’

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve knows this. And that’s why she was so encouraged with what she saw as the team prepared for the series against the Stars.

“I thought Seimone had a really good week of practice,” Reeve said. “And a good week mentally. There was a bounce in her step. I don’t think she’s anywhere near 100 percent. Maybe between 80 and 90, but Seimone has that warrior mentality. When the team needs her she will rise to the challenge. ‘’

Augustus said she was nearly pain-free Thursday. And that’s a good sign for the Lynx, a warning shot for opponents. “Her feeling good is critical to a playoff run,” Reeve said. “As good as Maya is, Seimone is critical to this team.”

Note: Moore was named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive second team Friday.

  • LYNX AT SAN ANTONIO Game 2: 6 p.m. Saturday • TV: ESPN2 (106.1-FM)

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