Lynx Take Game 1 From Stars, 88-84

by Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Assistant

Minnesota seems to know exactly what to do as soon as the playoffs start. It might be that Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve knows all the right buttons to push. It might be that the adrenaline picks up and allows players to run faster and jump that much higher. It might simply be that the team cares a little more once playoffs roll around.

No matter the trigger it’s proved uber effective over the last 669 days. That number, of course, heading into Game 1 against the San Antonio Stars, is the number of days since the Lynx last lost in the a playoffs.

And that number can go ahead and flip to 670 days.

Minnesota turned it on yet again and rode another strong effort from Maya Moore en route to an 88-84 win over San Antonio at Target Center.

“I’m proud of the way we finished,” Moore said. “It really wasn’t the fourth quarter we wanted so we’re going to have to come in with a heightened sense of focus next game. It was a great first half for us, though, so we have to come in and replicated that first half and bring it with us on the road.”

Moore finished with 26 points and on a particularly special night for her. While she was well aware of the task at hand, less than two hours before the game she took the podium and accepted a trophy after being named the 2014 WNBA MVP. She didn't let the award overshadow the game.

“I was just trying to live in the moment,” Moore said, “ … and at the end of the day I’m here to play basketball.”

That’s exactly what she did and she played nearly five more minutes of basketball than everyone else on the floor.

It wasn’t all roses for the Lynx, though. Minnesota had the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, but the Stars actually took a 73-72 lead with less than four minutes to play. That’s an exact spot where Moore has taken over countless times this season — when her team needs it most.

It was no different Thursday night.

Moore quickly put her team back in front with a backdoor layup on the offensive end and then had a monster block on the defensive end to cap the most important sequence of the game. Minnesota came out of that with a 74-73 advantage and never trailed again.

Lynx vs. Stars
“That’s the reason she’s the MVP,” Stars coach Dan Hughes said. “She impacts both ends of the court and she’s a heck of a player, one heck of a player.

Though that specific sequence changed the game, Seimone Augustus helped put the nail in the coffin. Augustus drilled three clutch jump shots in the waning minutes to help close out the game.

“Seimone has that warrior mentality to her that when the team needs it she rises to the occasion,” Reeve said. “Her feeling good is absolutely critical to a playoff run. As good as Maya is … Seimone is critical to this team.”

Becky Hammon kept the win within reach for the Stars with a couple of buckets late in the game. Moore, however, wasn’t going to be denied the win. She stepped up and nailed a pair of clutch free throws with seconds left to slam the door shut.

Minnesota is now just six wins away from another WNBA title. It will look to cut that magic number to five Saturday night in San Antonio.

"We won this 40 minutes and now we move on to the next 40 minutes,” Moore said. “A win was definitely nice. I’ll sleep a little easier. That’s for sure.”

Leader of the Pack

Moore accepted her MVP trophy a couple hours before the game and then went on to stuff the stat sheet. She scored 26 points, hauled in six rebounds, and dished out seven assists to lead the team to victory.

Highlight of the Game

It was probably inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but it was by far the prettiest play of the entire night. As the first quarter wound to a close, Moore deflected a pass on defense leading to a fastbreak the other way. Lindsay Whalen corralled an outlet pass and took a few dribbles before flicking a no look underhand lob pass to a streaking Moore. Moore took some contact at the rim, but somehow managed to finish off a gorgeous alley-oop to put the Lynx ahead of the Stars 24-14.

The Numbers Game

  • Minnesota hasn’t lost a playoff game in 670 days. Its last recorded loss came at the hands of the Indiana Fever in the WNBA finals two years ago.

  • The Lynx got balanced scoring from across the lineup Thursday night. They finished with four starters in double figures and Brunson was just two points shy of reaching double digits. They also got 17 points from the bench players.

  • Minnesota missed its first seven shots of the second quarter before Janel McCarville converted on a driving layup with 5:39 left in the frame. The Lynx went amid a near six-minute scoring drought before that bucket.

  • The Lynx held the Stars to 2-for-5 from three-point land in the first half. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said the goal was the hold San Antonio to less than four three-pointers in the game.

  • Brunson and Augustus both collected a pair of steals in the first half on Thursday night. Minnesota turned up the defensive pressure and amassed six steals before the break. It finished with 11 steals in the game.

  • Kayla McBride led the Stars with 20 points in the game. She was one of four players in double figures for San Antonio. Jayne Appel didn’t score in the game for the Stars and that was a difference maker down low.

  • Quotable

    Audio: Postgame Interview

    “We know we’re going to have to take it away from Minnesota. I don’t care if that team doesn’t have the best record. We all know that we’re going to have to take it away from Minnesota.”

    -- Stars coach Dan Hughes on the Lynx

    Looking Ahead

    It’s the playoffs so rest will be at a minimum. Minnesota will take this win and will hop on a plane to San Antonio for Game 2 of the best-of-three set on Saturday night.