Whalen scores 20 to lead Lynx past Storm 78-70
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore around, Lindsay Whalen's focus generally isn't on scoring. That doesn't mean she can't.
Whalen scored 20 points to lead the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in a 78-70 victory over the Seattle Storm in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night.
"Of course we know they're going to pay a lot of attention to Seimone and Maya, they're great shooters and great players," Whalen said. "We all know we have to step it up and make plays as well."
Augustus scored 19 points, Moore added 16 and Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota. Whalen also tallied six assists and four rebounds.
The Lynx shot 46 percent against a Storm team that held opponents to a league-low 39 percent this season, and hit 22 of 28 free throws — including 8 for 10 from Whalen.
"They have multiple weapons out there," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "If you give too much attention to any one person, someone else will take advantage of it. Tonight, (Whalen) took advantage."
Rookie reserve Shekinna Stricklen scored 13 points to lead the Storm. Katie Smith and Lauren Jackson added 12 points each, with all of but one of Jackson's coming in the first half.
Game 2 is Sunday at Seattle.
Jackson, a three-time WNBA MVP, didn't play in any of the teams' four regular-season games as she was training with the Australian national team for the London Olympics. The Lynx won three of those matchups.
Jackson played a season-high 27 minutes, but it wasn't enough as Seattle shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and never led. Minnesota improved to 18-0 when holding opponents below 40 percent this season.
"I didn't get the looks I was getting in the first half," Jackson said. "They changed their defense up. We definitely have to look at how we're going to combat that next game."
The Lynx, who went 16-1 at home in the regular season, turned the ball over nine times in the first 20 minutes and led just 33-27 despite Seattle's 29-percent shooting from the floor in the first half.
But Augustus and Whalen scored six points each and Brunson added three more as Minnesota opened the third quarter on a 15-8 run, and extended the lead to a game-high 17 on Candice Wiggins' 3-pointer with 2:38 left in period.
Seattle then answered with an 11-3 run to close the quarter, and responded again with a 9-2 run over a nearly 5-minute stretch when the Lynx jumped back ahead by 13 on Moore's runner with 6:38 to play. But six points was as close as the Storm would get, as Moore and Augustus hit clutch shots in the final two minutes and Minnesota made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the victory.
"I thought we got decent shots, we were playing well, just all of a sudden we're not scoring and not getting back on defense," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "We have to have that focus when we don't score, they don't score. That's what let them back in it, a string of missed shots and then they made the barrage of 3s."
The Lynx and Storm face off in the postseason for the first time since the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, which Seattle swept en route to the first of its two league titles.
Minnesota is trying to become the first back-to-back champion since Los Angeles accomplished the feat in the 2001 and '02 seasons. The Houston Comets won the league's first four titles from 1997-2000.