MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seimone Augustus scored 36 points to lead Minnesota’s second-half surge, and the Lynx moved within one win of their first WNBA title by beating the Atlanta Dream 101-95 in Game 2 of the league championship series on Wednesday night.
Jessica Adair added 13 points in 18 minutes in a reserve role for the Lynx, who took a commanding 2-0 lead by overcoming 38 points by the Dream’s Angel McCoughtry. Game 3 in the best-of-five matchup is set for Friday night in Atlanta.
McCoughtry had 24 points in the first half, but she shot just 2 for 13 after halftime.
With veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin on the bench with a sprained right knee suffered late in the third quarter, WNBA Rookie of the Year Maya Moore sitting for most of the game in foul trouble and fellow All-Star Rebekkah Brunson having a quiet game, Augustus took over.
Hearing “MVP” chants as she swished her free throws down the stretch, the sixth-year forward finished 11 for 14 from the floor and 13 for 16 at the line to help the Lynx fight back from a pair of 10-point holes in the second quarter.
The Lynx took a 77-76 lead early in the fourth, their first edge since 20-19, and used a 10-0 spurt to turn an 85-81 deficit with five minutes to go into a comfortable lead in the closing minutes.
Augustus knocked down a floating baseline jumper with two Dream defenders in her face to give the Lynx an 87-85 lead. Lindsay Whalen, who had 13 points, banked in a spin-dribble turnaround shot and drew a foul to make the arena erupt in excitement as Moore lifted her up in a bear hug to celebrate. Whalen’s three-point play made it 91-85 with 2:25 left.
Target Center was alive again, giving local sports fans a chance to cheer for some success in this swooning market. All kinds of folks in green and white T-shirts waving their white pom pons turned the atmosphere into another resounding advantage for the Lynx. Vikings players Bernard Berrian and Kevin Williams checked out the game from their court-side seats. Timberwolves executive David Kahn was there.
Even LeBron James was watching, from afar. He raved on Twitter about the performances put on by McCoughtry and Augustus.
The Dream started the season 2-7 and were only the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but after letting the Lynx get away with Game 1 on a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter they served notice they’re not about to concede the series to the team that dominated the WNBA all summer.
The Dream led 58-50 after a dizzying first half by two of the WNBA’s three highest-scoring teams.
After taking a three-game leave to play for her native Brazil in an Olympic qualifying tournament, Erika de Souza brought her broad shoulders — with a tattoo on each one — back to the basket for the Dream, who were outscored 52-30 in the lane and outrebounded 40-28 during Game 1.
The 6-foot-5 de Souza struggled early, missing a short shot, traveling twice and committing an over-the-back foul before settling down and beginning to contribute. Even before she scored a point or grabbed a rebound, though, her presence was valuable, drawing the defense in and making it easier for McCoughtry to find shooting space outside.
The All-WNBA forward, who narrowly finished second in the league in scoring in just her third professional season, hit a leaning bank shot to start the second quarter and finished the frame with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key — as if to remind the crowd of 15,124 that the first half was all hers.
Well, almost all hers. Augustus had 14 points in the second quarter herself, deftly using her crossover dribble to slash to the lane and convert shot after off-balance bank shot.
McCoughtry started to miss more after halftime, unlike in Game 1 when she had 19 of her 33 points in the third quarter, and the Dream — who finished 21 for 32 at the line — bricked a bunch of free throws that came back to hurt them later.
Iziane Castro Marques was twice fouled while taking a 3-pointer and made only one of those six free-throw attempts.
Lindsey Harding had 10 of her 14 points in the first half for the Dream.
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