Lynx shoot lights out to dim Dream's Finals hopes
OCT 08, 2013 11:06p ET
Somewhere after the first few seconds Tuesday night at the Target Center, the 2013 WNBA Finals shifted to, more than anything else, a wide-ranging imposition of will.
It's not over -- far from it, Lynx and Dream players want you to believe -- yet Minnesota couldn't fly down to Georgia on Wednesday with a more convincing 2-0 lead. At some point in their 88-63 drubbing of Atlanta, the Lynx grasped every ounce of momentum in the best-of-five affair and never really let go.
Maybe it was Devereaux Peters' stuff of Angel McCoughtry at one end of the floor and sweeping layup at the other during a 12-2 Minnesota jaunt in the first quarter. Perhaps Rebekkah Brunson's coast-to-coast rebound and subsequent lay-in in the second was the backbreaker. It could've been any of Lindsay Whalen's strong drives, beating two and sometimes three lumbering defenders. Or maybe Minnesota's 11-5 run to end the third frame finally broke a hungry but helpless Dream team that had cut a 17-point deficit to 10.
Like this entire season, there was too much ascendancy to single out any particular moment.
But the Lynx are one more win away from attaining the one they've hunted down ferociously since May.
"It's right there," said guard Seimone Augustus, who channeled her 2011 WNBA Finals MVP self and scored a game-high 20 points. "We've got 40 more minutes, 80 more possessions to get to where we want to be and what we feel like we deserve.
"But Atlanta's gonna bring everything. They're gonna throw the kitchen sink at us."
In front of 12,313 crazed fans, Minnesota outshot, outrebounded and outmuscled a team that's played in three of the past four Finals but has yet to achieve victory. Parents in attendance could've taken their bright-eyed daughters home in plenty of time for them to retire at a reasonable hour without missing any game-turning occurrences.
Even on a school night in the Twin Cities, few did. If this keeps up, this was their last chance to celebrate to Sugarhill Gang's "Apache (Jump On It)" until next summer.
"We don't want to come back to Minneapolis," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said fiercely afterward. "When we come back to Minneapolis, it's gonna be for a parade, not for Game 5."
A Finals-record 56.9 shooting percentage. A 40-22 advantage on the glass. Typical nights from three Olympians and women's basketball's most seasoned Finals veteran. A second straight lockdown of the league's top scorer that had her skipping the postgame press conference and letting loose noted frustration in the visitors' locker room.
"We don't want to believe it's over," said Dream forward Angel McCoughtry, who scored 15 points but has shot 11-for-42 (26.2 percent) in the series, "but it's tough playing the Lynx, you know?"
Even Atlanta coach Fred Williams hinted at some resignation.
"I think the things we've accomplished for this year's been tremendous," he said before quickly turning to the immediate future. "I think we still have an opportunity."
It's a mighty steep climb; since the WNBA expanded the Finals to five games in 2005, no team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit.
And very few have performed with the swift dominance Minnesota has possessed the past two outings.
All five Lynx starters scored in double figures Tuesday, including 14 each for Whalen and Maya Moore. Gunning for her third ring, Brunson notched her second double-double of the postseason with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Seven of her boards came in the first quarter, as Minnesota bounced back from an early 4-0 hole and never trailed again.
Even with Williams starting 6-foot-4 post Aneika Henry in place of 5-10 guard Tiffany Hayes, the Lynx fearlessly challenged in the lane. When they weren't finishing at the rim off nifty passes through the paint, they were drawing fouls -- Atlanta was whistled for 27 to Minnesota's 16, much to Williams' chagrin.
The Lynx attempted one 3-pointer all night -- a miss by Janel McCarville.
"It's just so endearing to see the way that we move (the ball)," Reeve said. "It's fun to watch. We get easy shots."
On defense, the Lynx's back-off mentality paid dividends for the second time in 48 hours. More than content to let McCoughtry and the WNBA's worst 3-point shooting team this year take long jumpers, they focused their efforts on keeping things difficult in the lane.
McCoughtry, who led the league in scoring with 21.5 points per game during the regular season, fouled out with 3:54 to go. As she left the floor, she was visibly shaken.
"That was our goal," Moore said. "Any time you're playing a great scorer, frustration is always a goal that you want them to feel after playing you."
Not even an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers -- and 25 Dream points as a consequence -- could prevent Minnesota's second 25-point blowout in as many outings. It's been the work of a team on a mission since falling in last season's championship a year after claiming the organization's first.
Even the taskmaster Reeve, who has overseen this once-floundering franchise's overhaul since the turn of the decade, let the realization of how close it is to another crown wash over her when the final buzzer sounded.
"I know that's the emotion that came over me as that game ended," said Reeve, who inherited in 2010 a team that hadn't made the playoffs since 2004. "'One more.'"
After moving into first all-time in WNBA Finals games played, Brunson was more cautious."We haven't done anything yet," she said, swallowing the smile trying to tug at the corner of her mouth.
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