The Lynx struggled for a half before the league's best offense got going.
When it finally did, the Seattle Storm could not keep up. Four starters scored in double figures as the Lynx beat the Storm 78-70 on Friday at Target Center before an announced crowd of 9,213.
The best-of-three Western Conference semifinal series now moves to Seattle for Game 2 on Sunday.
"The hardest game to win is the first one," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "We played great defense."
The Lynx had to. Because Seattle always does. The Storm held opponents to a league-low 71.6 points and a 39.1 shooting percentage.
At halftime, the Lynx held a six-point lead at 33-27. The point total was right where Seattle wanted it.
"We've got to clean up our offense," Reeve said. "We've got a lot of weapons, but we stalled a lot."
Until Seimone Augustus came out scoring in the third quarter. She scored on a layup, on a baseline jumper and on a fast break after making a steal during an 8-2 run that put the Lynx ahead by 12 points.
"It was vintage Seimone," Reeve said.
"Everybody knows my shots weren't falling like I wanted them to," said Augustus, referring to her seven points in the first half, "so the counter to that is to try to [make] me more aggressive and get to the basket. I tried to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line."
Augustus finished 7-for-15 from the field for 19 points. Guard Lindsay Whalen had a game-high 20 points and six assists.
Maya Moore chipped in with 16 points and Rebekkah Brunson with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Storm coach Brian Agler said. "The Lynx have multiple options, and if you give too much attention to any one player, somebody else is going to take advantage."
The Lynx shot 46.4 percent to Seattle's 39.7.
Lauren Jackson, Seattle's 6-6 center who was missing most of the season, carried the Storm for the first half with 11 points, but she finished with only 12.
She trained with Australia for the Olympics the first half of the season, then after she reported to the Storm a hamstring injury limited her to part-time duty in nine games.
"In the second half, I didn't get the looks I had in the first," Jackson said.
Agler said the game turned in the third quarter.
"We couldn't keep up with them at the free-throw line," he said. "It seemed like the third quarter lasted 1 1/2 hours. They tried to isolate Maya or Seimone on the blocks, and they either scored or got to the free-throw line."
The Lynx were 10-for-13 on free throws that quarter, 22-for-28 for the game. The Storm got to the foul line almost as often but was a woeful 13-for-23.
"We are happy with our game plan," said ex-Lynx player Katie Smith, now a starting forward for Seattle. "We just have to make more plays. We are ticked."
And at KeyArena, the Storm is a much better team. Seattle was 10-7 at home this season while its road record, after this loss, is 6-12.
"We like playing there," Reeve said. "Game 2 will look nothing like Game 1. It's hard to close a team out, especially on their floor."