Minneapolis, MN — “Bombarded.” This was the first word used by Washington Head Coach Mike Thibault as he sat down after game one of the WNBA semifinals. He hit it right on target of what exactly went down at Williams Arena Tuesday night when his team met Minnesota on the court and ultimately fell, 101-81.
The first half showed a series of back and forth point production from both squads. The Mystics were holding on -- until the Lynx decided to change up the pace of the game.
“Every time they turned around the ball was going through the net. They were locked in, I mean Jia Perkins pulled up one time and she didn’t even hesitate from where I was standing, and it seemed like that was their rhythm tonight,” said Thibault.
It was one of those nights for the Lynx. All momentum was on its side from the start looking fresh after resting the first two rounds of the playoffs. Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman were giving their best shot to keep Washington in the game, however, by intermission, the Lynx were up 15, 53-38.
Right out of the gate though, Minnesota began the second half with an undeniable poise that had the Mystics rattled even more. The core instigator? The Lynx’s Seimone Augustus whose game was so focused, everything she did was untouchable.
Rather it was her patent crossover into a smooth pull-up on a defender, fading away on a jump-shot, or driving all the way to the hole, there was no answer for her. In fact, in the third stanza alone Augustus had exploded for 11 points.
“It completed my week to have my grandmother call and say, ‘Shoot the ball tonight!’ [Which] is why I was so aggressive,” said Augustus, noting that this was the first time her grandmother called to tell her those words specifically.
And shoot it she did. By the end of the night, Augustus tallied a game-high 24 points – shooting a blistering 64.7% on 11-for-17 — and pulled down five rebounds.
“We need Seimone. I always say, when Seimone plays well, we don’t lose,” said Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. “We get so much balance around her when she’s aggressive like that, and she knows it, she knows this is her time.”
From the momentum brought by Augustus, her teammates rallied along with her, and it quickly became a euphoric situation where Minnesota could do no wrong. Washington fought with them starting out, but faded into frustration as the game progressed and the Lynx pulled further ahead.
Minnesota shot 59.4 percent from the field and 70.6 percent from the three-point line, at one point hitting nine three-pointers in a row – a WNBA record.
Almost half of those deep range shots, one of them being a buzzer beater at the conclusion of the third frame, came from Renee Montgomery who also shot the ball extremely well (70%) tonight. Montgomery finished with 18 points along with Sylvia Fowles, and Maya Moore rounded out the Lynx double-digit scorers with 14 points.
Essentially there were too many weapons for Washington to try and contain and in the end could not, as Minnesota was successful in securing game one with a 101-81 victory.
“The game is really simple, make more shots than the other team. They did that clearly tonight, they were hot, very hot,” said Thibault.
The Lynx set the bar high for the rest of the playoffs series with the Mystics, but as every competitor and sports fan knows, it’s not over ‘til it’s over. Washington plans to make a number of adjustments and come back ready for a fight on Thursday.
“I think if you’re trying to get an upset you have to do it aggressively and you can’t play it safe,” said Mystics Delle Donne after the game. “So, I think we’ll see different ways where we can attack and be a little bit more aggressive and try to make them uncomfortable.”
With a quick turnaround, the teams will be back in Minneapolis to face off for game two on Thursday, Sept. 14 where tip-off is set for 8 pm ET on ESPN2.