Second-year Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said so far everything has gone along as planned with her team.
"Roger is the one who gave me the opportunity to be a head coach of this team," she said, referring to Roger Griffith, the team's executive vice president. "We laid out a plan in the beginning. I shared with him what my goals were with the team and he believed in it. It is just nice to lay out a plan and go out there and be able to execute it and come through with it.
"Someone like Roger has been doing it for 13 seasons," Reeve said. She could have added without much success until this season.
"And to see the smile on his face and [owner] Glen Taylor's face, it was what our goal was," Reeve said. "And to be able to do it feels good."
The Lynx beat Phoenix 95-67 on Thursday to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three Western Conference finals.
"It was a great Game 1 for us [against Phoenix]," Reeve said, "but it is only 40 minutes and there is 80 minutes to go in the series. We were in their cuts, we made things difficult for them. We pushed them out beyond their comfort zone. We got our defense set. Our help was really good when they did try to use on-ball screens. Overall, in all positions, we were pretty good defensively."
On offense, Reeve said the Lynx turned the ball over a little too much: "We gave them some easy baskets, especially Ferdinand [Marie Ferdinand-Harris] in that first half."
The Lynx committed 16 turnovers, off of which the Mercury scored 17 points. Phoenix had 15 turnovers which led to 21 Lynx points.
The second game of the series is Sunday afternoon in Phoenix. "It is going to be a hard game in Phoenix," Reeve said, "no doubt about it. They are going to step up their defense, they are going to get more physical. If we take care of the ball better, we will take away those points [the Mercury gets off turnovers]. Our defense has to be really good. They are going to get very determined and desperate."
TOUGH FIRST SERIES HELPFUL
"It is a mature group," Reeve said, referring to her team, "and the San Antonio series helped us in our preparation for this [second series], especially defensively. We were really tested with San Antonio's other schemes. The biggest key to the game for us [against Phoenix] was defending the three-point line. We did a much better job than any game we played all season with them."
"Overall we defended her pretty well. We were where we needed to be and it is going to take an even better effort on Sunday to try to close out a team. I am sure [Diana] Taurasi will be ready to play when we play again."
Taurasi led the WNBA in scoring, averaging 21.6 points, and the Mercury averaged a league-high 89 points.
"From the standpoint of being able to score against them, [Phoenix] is a better matchup for us" than the Silver Stars, Reeve said. "San Antonio, Dan Hughes is more of a defensive coach."
Phoenix's emphasis is offense. "There is a greater comfort level knowing we are going to be able to score," Reeve said before Thursday's tipoff. "We've shot nearly 51 percent against them in our series, [averaged] 90-some points. We've got to do the same thing. We've got to move the ball. We've got to make sure we don't take contested shots. There is no reason to because if you continue to move [the ball], you are going to get an open shot against these guys."
As it tuned out, the Lynx shot 50 percent. They were especially good on three pointers (42.9 percent) and free throws (17 for 19).
Reeve said Phoenix had to be looking forward to playing against the Lynx. "We haven't defended the three-point line very well," she said. "I know for [the Mercury], they are excited about that part of our defense. That we have not been able to defend the three. We've got to defend the three, that's the No. 1 thing. They shoot 37 percent from there on the season but against the Lynx the shoot 47 percent. That's a glaring number for us.
"We have tweaked some of our rotations so they don't get some of those opportunities. We'll see if we can execute it."
And excecute they did. Phoenix was just four for 20 on three-pointers or 20 percent. Taurasi was two for six behind the arc, Penny Taylor and DeWanna Bonner were each zero for three.
"It is a unique experience; this is my first playoffs," Lynx guard Candice Wiggins said after scoring 14 points against the Mercury. "It is a big picture here. This is just Part I. And I am really happy we were able to set the tone the way we did with our defense. I am really proud of our whole team.
"When you play a team like Phoenix with DIana and Penny Taylor, they are just so offensively gifted that when you are able to win with your defense, it feels good. It feels very confident."
But Wiggins said she knows beating the Mercury a second time in their arena will be much tougher. "We've got to prepare for wrath. That's the word that comes to mind. They are going to be real upset. We just have to be ready for that. It's playoff time."
GAINES ON HIS EARLY T
Phoenix coach Corey Gaines got his first technical foul of the seaosn in the first quarter. He was upset at a non-call when Rebekkah Brunson knocked Taylor down on a shot.
"I didn't lose my temper," Gaines said. "I guess she [the referee] didn't like what I said. Sometimes the truth hurts."
He is convinced, though, the Mercury will be ready for the next game. "I don't need to motivate them. I have [WNBA] champions, World champions, gold-medal winners, NCAA champions. I don't need to motivate them. Champions motivate themselves."
UConn coach Geno Auriemma was at courtside Thursday at Target Center. He was working as a basketball analyst for ESPN2.
"It has been great for me to watch a lot of the WNBA games because so many of our players are in the league," said Auriemma, who will coach the U.S. team in the 2012 London Olympics. "So every night ... you are not quite sure who you want to win. In this case, it is interesting for Minnesota because this is their first time being in this situation whereas Phoenix has been here lots of times. They won two WNBA titles."
Auriemma called the Lynx the best team in the league in a promo spot. He described Phoenix as a surprise winner over Seattle.
"I don't think it is going to be about Diana and Maya to be honest with you," he said in a pregame interview on Thursday. Those, of course, were two of his former stars.
"In these kind of games, your third and fourth players, whichever team gets the most production out of those players is going to win.the game," Auriemma said.
He was right about that. The Lynx had five players in double figures, Augustus with 21 and four bunched between 13 and 15.
Taurasi scored 21, but the next two scorers had 12 and 11 and it dropped to six points after that.
DIANA'S FAVORITE PLAYER IS ...
Taurasi and Augustus have know each other for about 17 years, meeting as youngsters in AAU basketball. "We have always had a great friendship and that continued on to USA basketball," Taurasi said. "[Seimone] is probably my favorite player in the league the way she plays is unlike anyone else."
Her opinion of Augustus doesn't change even if she is guarding her, Taurasi said: "You always want to play against the best, right? Otherwise there is no point in playing."