ATLANTA (AP) – The Minnesota Lynx have a reputation of starting fast and struggling at the end. They are trying to change that image.
Seimone Augustus scored 19 points and the Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 77-64 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.
Minnesota (5-1) had a 14-point lead midway in the first quarter and built it to 19 a couple of times before the half. And when Atlanta made its expected run, the Lynx were able to withstand the pressure. It happened again midway in the fourth quarter, when Atlanta trimmed a 24-point deficit to 12 with 7:58 remaining.
Both times Minnesota answered with a scoring spurt and never allowed the lead to get below double digits.
“The players’ mindset has changed,” Augustus said. “We’ve had 20-point leads and we’ve blown 20-point leads. We’ve been there and done that. We’ve added some good players, like Maya Moore and Amber Harris, and our expectations have changed.”
Augustus credits the defense, which gave up 85 points in a win at home against on Friday night. There was more of a defensive effort and a concerted attempt to keep the Dream from scoring in the paint this time and Atlanta had only 24 such points after getting 50 two days earlier.
“It’s defense,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “On the road we have to bring our defense. We put it on them. We talk about punching the other team in the mouth. When you play good defense it makes it easier on the road.”
It’s the third game this season that Minnesota has limited an opponent to fewer than 70 points. Atlanta managed to shoot only 30 percent (21 for 70) from the field, the third time the Lynx have held an opponent to under 40 percent.
Minnesota swept its two-games against Atlanta, the defending WNBA Eastern Conference champions, for the first time. Sunday’s game also marked a homecoming for Minnesota rookie Maya Moore, who went to Collins Hill High School in the northern Atlanta suburbs. Moore received the loudest ovation during pregame introductions and had nearly 150 people from her old AAU team in the stands wearing “Maya” T-shirts.
Moore, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft out of UConn, scored 12 points, but made only 4 of 12 from the field and only 1 of 4 3-point attempts. She had eight rebounds, five assists and blocked a shot, but had three turnovers.
“She was excited,” Reeve said. “She’s not immune to human nature. She played hard and every time she gets out there she gets better.”
Lindsay Whalen had 13 points and five assists for the Lynx, Rebekkah Brunson added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Taj McWilliams-Franklin grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds.
Atlanta (1-5) was unable to get leading scorer Angel McCoughtry on track. McCoughtry, who averages 16.5 points, shot just 2 for 13 shots and scored 10 points. The Dream was led by guard Lindsey Harding, who had a season-high 14 points. Erika DeSouza and Coco Miller both scored 10.
“We’ve got to bounce back in a hurry,” Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors. “We’ve got to get some things worked out and put this game behind us.”
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