MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The points were expected to come in bunches in the Western Conference finals, which featured two of the top three offenses in the WNBA.
They did — for the Minnesota Lynx.
Seimone Augustus had 21 points and seven assists to lead the Lynx to a 95-67 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.
Maya Moore scored 13 of her 15 points in the first quarter and Candice Wiggins added 14 off the bench for the top-seeded Lynx, who held the highest scoring team in the league 22 points below its regular season average.
“Phoenix is a very difficult team to guard,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And we made it look pretty easy.”
Diana Taurasi had 22 points and five rebounds for the Mercury, who were outrebounded 42-26 and shot just 35.7 percent from the field.
The Lynx opened the game with a 15-3 run and Phoenix never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“Lose by one or lose by 30, it’s a loss,” Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. “I learned that a long time ago. We’ll get back home and regroup.”
A victory in Game 2 on Sunday in Phoenix would put Minnesota in the franchise’s first WNBA finals.
Rebekkah Brunson had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Lynx, who had five players score in double figures.
Taurasi didn’t have nearly as much help, with DeWanna Bonner scoring 11 and Marie Ferdinand-Harris finishing with 12. Candice Dupree, who led the team with 19 points per game in its first-round win over Seattle, finished with two points and two rebounds before fouling out with eight minutes to play.
“It probably looked easy, but it wasn’t,” Augustus said. “We know when we go to Phoenix, Arizona, it’s going to be a different story.”
These two high-flying teams have engaged in some epic shootouts over the last few years, but the Mercury left their offense in Phoenix.
With UConn coach Geno Auriemma doing the broadcast, Moore came out like gangbusters with three pull-up jumpers to get the Lynx off and running. She had 13 points in the first quarter, playing so well that Reeve left her in the game even with two early fouls.
The Mercury looked a little shell-shocked by the aggression. They made just 3 of 18 shots in the first quarter to fall behind by 17 points. Taurasi was 1 for 5 and Bonner, Dupree and Penny Taylor were nonexistent.
Gaines got a technical for arguing after Brunson knocked Taylor to the ground on a blocked shot and Moore scored the last five points of the quarter for a 28-11 lead.
The Mercury run the wide-open, Loyola Marymount offense, and have led the league in scoring six straight seasons. They chipped away with a 16-5 run in the second quarter to pull within eight.
Taurasi hit a 3-pointer and scored on a steal to make the score 47-41 early in the third, but the Lynx closed the period with a 20-8 surge to blow the game wide open.
Wiggins, filling in after Lindsay Whalen picked up her fourth foul, hit two 3s, the last one from well behind the right elbow and the Lynx led 74-55 to turn the fourth quarter into garbage time.
“I’m really happy we were able set the tone with our defense,” Wiggins said. “When you’re dealing with a team like Phoenix and Diana and Penny Taylor, they’re just so offensively gifted. When you’re able to win with your defense, it feels good.”
These two teams have played some break-neck games over the past couple of years, including a 112-105 Phoenix win earlier this season that was the highest-scoring regular season game in league history. The Mercury also beat the Lynx 127-124 in double overtime last season, the highest-scoring game ithe league has ever seen.
Both teams needed the full three games to advance from the semifinals, with the Lynx beating San Antonio and the Mercury eliminating Seattle.
“Minnesota did a great job on defense taking away our easy buckets,” Bonner said. “I think we missed a couple open shots as well. We just couldn’t get it going tonight, especially on our fast break, which is our bread and butter.
The Mercury were the only team to beat Minnesota twice during its dominant 27-7 regular season.
“We’ve just got to be prepared for wrath,” Wiggins said of Game 2. “They’re going to be real upset.”
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