MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rebekkah Brunson had 26 points and 11 rebounds and Seimone Augustus added 22 points to lead the Minnesota Lynx to an 88-74 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the WNBA finals on Sunday night.
Lindsay Whalen added 15 points and six assists and the Lynx turned a close game into a runaway with a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter. Taj McWilliams-Franklin added eight points and 10 boards while battling an illness.
Angel McCoughtry scored 19 of her 33 points in the third quarter and Lindsey Harding scored 20 points for the Dream.
Atlanta led by 12 points midway through the second quarter, but the Lynx kept them off the board for the first 4:34 of the fourth quarter to take control.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
For those who say the women’s game lacks everything that makes the sport great — athleticism, shot-making and competitive fire — Game 1 will not help them make their case.
Maya Moore’s sensational reverse layup, a scoop shot that started from clear on the other side of the rim, got the Lynx started on a third-quarter surge that got them back into the game. Brunson finished a three-point play and Augustus’s no-look pass was finished by Whalen’s reverse layup to cap a 9-0 run that gave them a 51-49 lead.
On the other end, McCoughtry was simply unstoppable, hitting a incredible array of jumpers from odd angles all over the floor, blocking shots and forcing steals to keep her team from faltering. She scored all but four of Atlanta’s 23 points in the third and the game was tied at 62 heading into the fourth.
Whalen started the deciding surge with a three-point play and a shooter’s roll jumper and the Lynx turned up the pressure on the defensive end to get two fast break layups to take a 75-62 lead with 5:45 to play.
The Lynx outscored the Dream 52-30 in the paint and held Atlanta to 37 percent shooting in Minnesota’s first finals game in franchise history.
After 12 largely anonymous and often wretched seasons of existence, the Lynx finally broke through this year in a major way. With Augustus healthy for the first time in three years and Moore coming from UConn with the No. 1 overall pick, the Lynx blew the doors off the rest of the league, finishing 27-7, six games better than the second-best team.
A fired-up crowd of 15,258 — the second-largest in franchise history — waved white pom-poms and celebrated wildly after a nerve-racking start.
The Dream just seemed a step quicker than the Lynx in the early going, with Harding running circles around Whalen and the rest of the Lynx in the first 13 minutes. They forced six turnovers and Harding hit two 3s as they jumped out to a 29-17 lead early in the second quarter.
The Lynx couldn’t buy a basket while Atlanta built its lead, shooting 29 percent in the first quarter and a half. Augustus missed six of her first seven shots, but once she got going, the Lynx clawed back into the game.
She hit a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer from the wing to get things started and fed Jessica Adair on a pretty pick-and-roll to pull the Lynx to 39-36 at halftime.
The Dream are playing in the finals for the second year in a row after losing to Seattle last year. Not bad for a franchise that just started four years ago. They dispatched top-seeded Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals to get here, winning on the road in Game 3 to advance.
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