Grit gives Lynx a Game 1 grip

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2012 - 12:53 AM

The Lynx's first playoff victory wasn't always pretty, but it showcased their teamwork and perseverance.

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Guard Lindsay Whalen topped the Lyynx in assists with six and led all scorers with 20 points Friday.

Photo: Stacy Bengs, Associated Press

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The Lynx shot better, had more rebounds and committed one fewer turnover in beating Seattle 78-70 on Friday.

But the biggest discrepancy was the play of the two veteran backcourts.

Lindsay Whalen scored 20 points, and Seimone Augustus 19 for the Lynx. They combined to make 13 of 28 shots and had 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Sue Bird, who started ahead of Whalen on the gold medal-winning Olympic team, and Tanisha Wright, had three more assists as a pair but had only 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

"I have a feeling, knowing Sue, she will respond and bounce back on Sunday," Storm coach Brian Agler said after the game.

The teams meet again Sunday night at Seattle's KeyArena, with the Lynx holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Western Conference semifinal series.

In the first game the Lynx won -- as usual -- at home, improving their record at Target Center this season to 17-1. In the playoffs over two years, the defending WNBA champions are 6-0 in their arena.

Their latest triumph was a testament to grit, perseverance and teamwork. Beautifully flowing, awe-inspiring ball it was not, except for a play here and there. There were long stretches when neither team could score.

Augustus shadowed Bird.

"I just tried to use my size against her, but she's an Olympian," said the 6-foot Augustus, another member of the U.S. team in London and 3 inches taller than Bird.

"[She is] one of the best players in the world. I just did what I said I could as far as getting every free throw in and getting every pass, trying to block every shot."

Augustus was perfect on four free throws, had one steal and one block. Bird, whom U.S. coach Geno Auriemma calls the best point guard in the world, did make two shots from behind the arc but attempted only three. She was usually covered.

After taking a 33-27 lead at halftime, the sputtering Lynx started the third quarter on a 10-3 run. Augustus had six of those points, Whalen the other four.

"We started going to the basket," Whalen said. "Whether you're driving and kicking or getting to the basket, it usually works out. Either [teammates] are going to have a good shot, or I'll have something to the basket."

Agler said the Storm was more worried about other Lynx players, and Whalen took advantage. She came in averaging 11.5 points -- five fewer than Augustus and Moore -- and with two previous 20-plus games, both in June.

"We will watch film and talk with our team about the things we can improve on," Agler said, "which there are plenty."

Said Storm forward Katie Smith, "We know a couple more shots or a couple more stops -- the game could have been different."

The bottom line is, the Lynx, after compiling the league's best record at 27-7, are one step closer to repeating as WNBA champions.

Coach Cheryl Reeve's players got little league recognition during the season -- one player of the week award for Moore -- and none of the four postseason awards has gone to a Lynx player.

Moore and Augustus were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the MVP voting.

"Somehow our players don't get recognized for MVP performances," Reeve said. "This is the time when everyone else goes for the consolation prizes, and we go for the big one.

"Seimone played like an MVP tonight."

Whalen, too.

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