MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seimone Augustus has been on losing team after losing team since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 by the Minnesota Lynx.
The losing weighed on Minnesota’s career leading scorer. Finally playoff bound, she felt quite a difference once the Lynx finally punched their long-awaited ticket to the postseason.
“The people that’s been here and went through those rough stages, we feel real good about it,” Augustus said. “It’s just that weight, I feel lightheaded right now. I feel real light right now.”
Augustus scored 17 points and the Lynx beat the Los Angeles Sparks 87-68 on Saturday night to earn their first playoff berth since 2004.
Candice Wiggins added 13 points, including four 3-pointers for Minnesota (20-6), which tied a team record for wins in a season and entered the day leading the Western Conference by 4 1/2 games over second-place Phoenix. Monica Wright scored 11 points for the Lynx, who also own the WNBA’s best record by two games over East-leading Indiana (18-8).
Minnesota isn’t satisfied, yet.
The Lynx have their sights set on home-court advantage, which would come with finishing with the league’s best record.
“It was a long time coming and it’s here,” said Wiggins, who is in her fourth season for Minnesota. “Now it’s like, ‘Hey, who cares?’ Now it’s on to the next goal.”
Candace Parker had 18 points and eight rebounds in her second start since returning from knee surgery for Los Angeles (10-15), which fell further behind fourth-place Seattle for the final playoff spot in the West.
Minnesota has only made two trips to the postseason since joining the league in 1999, and has never won a playoff series. No current member of the roster has been played a postseason game with the Lynx, who made the playoffs in 2003 and 2004.
Augustus has seen the worst of the playoff drought, but she never doubted she would eventually reach the postseason.
“I thought this day was going to come, it couldn’t get no worse than where we were at,” Augustus said. “I’m happy this day has finally arrived. We’re happy about it. I know the fans are excited. Everybody’s got, like, a weight lifted off our shoulders that we finally made it.”
Augustus helped break the Lynx out of a slump against the Sparks on Saturday.
With Parker back in the lineup, Los Angeles came out strong. Parker scored 10 of her team’s first 15 points, hitting her first four shots. The Sparks took a 20-10 lead, but the Lynx countered with a 16-2 run to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Augustus scored all eight of her first-half points in the second quarter, and Wiggins added all nine of her first-half points in the quarter as Minnesota added on to its lead.
“We had them on their heels,” Parker said. “But we relaxed and they took over. We only showed glimpses of being a great team. We saw a little bit of adversity and laid down.”
It’s been a rough go for the Sparks without Parker, who missed seven weeks with a torn lateral meniscus. However, Los Angeles beat Indiana in Parker’s first start since returning on Thursday, when she scored 18 points to go with five assists.
However, after two turnovers in the first quarter, Los Angeles finished with 17.
Parker also found the going a bit tougher. She scored just five points in the second half and finished 7 of 14 shooting.
“She had a couple of bunnies she missed that she doesn’t miss if she’s at full (strength),” Sparks coach Joe Bryant said. “She looked good, though. We’ll take her at 80 percent.”
Tina Thompson finished with 11 points for Los Angeles. However, Minnesota outrebounded the Sparks 43-24.
The 20 wins tie a season record for the Lynx and set a regular-season mark. Minnesota had 19 regular-season wins in 2003 and added one win in the playoffs against Los Angeles.
“There’s a lot of history to be made here,” Augustus said. “We still got some work to do.”
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