For Lindsay Whalen, playing at Williams Arena brought a flood of nostalgia. For Seimone Augustus, the Barn’s elevated floor brought a fear of knee inflammation.
Renee Montgomery, the Lynx’s energetic guard, wanted her teammates to jump onto the court to celebrate baskets. Augustus, the Lynx’s veteran scorer, looked at Montgomery like she had advised investing in rotary phones.
“We’re the oldest team in the league,” Augustus said. “You want us to jump up?”
The Lynx had just beaten the Washington Mystics 101-81 on Tuesday night in the first game of the best-of-five WNBA semifinals at Williams Arena. Augustus scored a game-high 24 points, all in the first three quarters, for her largest output in a playoff game since 2012, while making 11 of 17 shots with five rebounds and three assists.
A few years ago, Augustus would glower when asked about her team’s advancing age. Tuesday, she sounded as if she couldn’t wait to get her AARP card.
She called her team “the old truck.” She complained about having to jump onto the floor, and about the staircase from the locker room. She doth protest too much.
Augustus set career lows in points per game and shots during the regular season, but that was the plan. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve decided to keep Augustus rested for the playoffs, and that decision led to her displaying her old slashing style as well as hitting spot-up jumpers as Washington’s defense collapsed around Sylvia Fowles.
Augustus can credit her current coach for her fresh legs. She credits one of her life coaches for shooting advice.
When Augustus told her grandmother, Sarah Augustus, that she had set a career high in assists, Sarah told her, “Yeah, that’s great — but shoot the ball.”
Grandma used a certain adjective to make that sentence ring, an adjective Reeve might use on occasion.
“I like Grandma,” Reeve said.
So does Fowles, who played at Williams in 2004 alongside Augustus for LSU.
“If you had a camera to follow Seimone around for 24 hours, you’d see just how funny she is,” Fowles said. “And her dad is 10 times worse than she is. And the grandma? Probably times 20. It runs in the blood.”
Augustus and Montgomery took the podium after the game and held a conversation that should wind up in media relations textbooks on how to charm an audience.
Augustus, asked if she had difficulty adapting to a season of rest, referred to her backup, Jia Perkins, and said, “No! I was looking for Jia a couple of times, get me out of here. You have to understand, at our age, we’re getting old, we have to be smart about it. Whatever coach says, goes. My body feels great. You saw the results tonight.”
Washington coach Mike Thibault did.
“We got bombarded,” he said.
Thibault believes Reeve was determined to get Augustus involved by screening for her and feeding her the ball. With Fowles dominating inside and Maya Moore capable of scoring from anywhere, Augustus will have room to shoot and slash.
“Syl’s life is hard,” Reeve said. “You can’t just live on one area. Maya is going to get hers. We need Seimone. I always say when Seimone plays well, we don’t lose. She knows it. She knows this is her time, in the playoffs.”
Augustus made two of her three three-pointers, and three times in the third quarter used a staccato dribble to break down her defender and finish with a gorgeous teardrop of a one-hand shot.
“You’ve got to keep the old truck going,” Augustus said. “Now we can strive for our goal, which is to win a title. Now you can see the hunger of us trying to get our goal.”
In 2004, Augustus scored 22 points as LSU beat Minnesota at Williams Arena. Thirteen years later, she scored 24 while playing alongside Whalen.
The Louisiana native is becoming an honorary Geauxpher, but she has one complaint.
“That floor,” she said, “is high!”