MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Teams have learned that containing Maya Moore is a key to having a chance against the Minnesota Lynx, who have been the WNBA’s best regular season team over the last three years.
The Seattle Storm kept Moore frustrated for 20 minutes on Friday night. However, it wasn’t nearly enough.
Seimone Augustus scored 19 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 18 and Moore added 17 after a miserable first half, leading the Lynx to an 80-64 win over the Storm in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The Lynx led 40-36 at halftime, stretched it to 14 after three quarters and pulled away in the fourth to improve their home playoff record to 10-1 over the last three years.
Minnesota, which won the title in 2011 before falling short in the WNBA Finals against Indiana last year, also became the only home team to win a series opener this postseason.
“We still have more we can do. That’s what this group is talking about,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It’s a 120-minute series and we won the first 40. Now we’ve got to move on to the second 40. It’s only going to get more intense in game two because now it’s a desperation game for them.”
Temeka Johnson led the Storm with 14 points, and Tanisha Wright finished with 13.
Seattle made four 3-pointers in the first half and stayed close until the final 10 minutes. Minnesota led by 22 late in the fourth quarter before the Storm scored the final six points.
“They are mentally and physically tough and showed a lot of persistence,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “They played in a good way and separated themselves in the third quarter. When you turn the ball over, they can score on you quick.”
The Lynx had little trouble with the Storm in the regular season, sweeping four games, the closest of which was a 13-point win at Seattle on Sept. 10. By contrast, the Storm took advantage of sloppy play by Minnesota early on to take a lead in the first quarter and refused to let the Lynx break the game open in the first half.
Minnesota led 16-15 after 10 minutes, then threatened to pull away with a 16-4 run in the second quarter. But a well-timed break allowed the Storm to slow things down and claw back into the game, cutting the Lynx advantage to four at halftime.
Moore was just 1 of 9 from the field in the first half, but Brunson made the most of those misses, grabbing four offensive rebounds and leading all scorers with 13 points.
Johnson kept things close for Seattle, driving to the basket for 10 points at the break.
“We were all frustrated with our defense (at halftime),” Moore said. “Whenever that isn’t in sync, it reflects on our offense. Having a big lead and watching them cut it back didn’t feel good so we wanted to make sure we came out with a bang.”
Moore opened the second half with a driving layup to the basket, and closed the third quarter with a step-back 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds on the clock, giving Minnesota a 62-48 lead after 30 minutes.
“In the first half she started off slow … but we told her to keep shooting,” Augustus said. “She was getting great shots and great looks and she’s a great player, so she’s going to knock them down. Once she got rolling it opened up the floor.”
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is Sunday at Tacoma, Wash., in a building where neither team has played before. With a scheduling conflict at Key Arena, their usual home, the Storm hope the new venue, and their struggles against the Lynx this season, won’t matter
“We have one option, to win on Sunday,” Wright said. “The nice thing about being in this situation is the regular season doesn’t count and it doesn’t matter. This last game is over and we have another game, so short-term memory.”
Brunson led all rebounders with nine in the game. Tina Thompson was Seattle’s rebounds leader with eight.
Minnesota beat Seattle in three games in the first round last year.