MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With the WNBA’s best record and playing in front of a sellout crowd, everything pointed to a blowout for the Minnesota Lynx.
The short-handed Phoenix Mercury still made things interesting.
Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus each scored 16 points as the Lynx became the second team in WNBA history to start 13-1 after beating the Mercury 96-80 on Wednesday night.
Phoenix, playing the first game of a season-high four-game road trip, got 23 points from DeWanna Bonner. The Mercury stayed within single-digits through three quarters, but fell to 3-9, losing to Minnesota for the third time this season.
“They’re doing the best they can,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “They’re playing hard with a young point guard, but they’re doing OK. (Bonner) shoots 3s well, and usually she’s open, so she’s doing what she’s supposed to do.”
Maya Moore had 15 points and Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 13 for the Lynx, who broke open a close game in the second half to match the 1998 Houston squad that started 20-1 en route to a 27-3 record. Still, the Lynx coach was unsatisfied despite holding Phoenix to 35 percent shooting from the field.
“I felt we didn’t play that well defensively,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “The players think I’m nuts when I tell them, ‘We didn’t do this, we didn’t do that’ and we held them to 35 percent, so what’s my problem? But I think playoff basketball.”
Samantha Prahalis added 20 for the Mercury, but had to leave during the third quarter due to bleeding from a left leg injury.
The Lynx, used to winning handily on their home court en route to the league’s best record, could not shake the short-handed Mercury in the first half. That was mostly due to the efforts of Bonner, who hit a pair of 3-pointers and had 18 points at the break.
McWilliams-Franklin had 11 first half points to lead the Lynx, who scored the last seven points of the half to lead 51-45 after 20 minutes.
“We were very aggressive in the first half,” said Bonner, who was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. “In the third quarter, we came out and shot a lot of jumpers and you can’t do that against Minnesota, coming out down six points. You have to attack the basket. They have a great team and they’re rolling right now, so it’s hard to get a win in here.”
Phoenix already playing without injured regulars Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi, also lost forward Candice Dupree for the game against Minnesota. Listed as a starter in the pregame notes, Dupree was scratched for the third straight game with a left knee injury. Taylor has missed the entire season, while Taurasi has played two games and is not expected back until after the Olympics.
“This team has a lot of fight and a lot of competitors, so we understand what they bring to the table even if they don’t have their top scorers,” said Augustus, who was among six Lynx players scoring in double figures. “It’s the new Lynx. In previous years, it was, ‘Stop Seimone and you stop the team,’ but there are so many weapons on this team.”
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