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Minnesota cements No. 1 seed, throttles Washington

With great defense and a win over the Washington Mystics on Sunday afternoon, the Lynx cemented their place as the No. 1 seed in the WNBA Playoffs.

WNBA: Minnesota Lynx at Los Angeles Sparks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

St. Paul, Minn.— It’s official. The Minnesota Lynx are the No. 1 seed throughout the 2017 WNBA Playoffs.

The Lynx came out on top over the Washington Mystics on Sunday afternoon, 86-72, and will have home court advantage throughout the postseason.

Minnesota entered Sunday’s game in control of their own destiny, as a win would cement their place as the top seed regardless of the outcome of the Los Angeles Sparks game. Their victory was fueled by offense in the first half, and defense in the second.

Maya Moore led the way for all scorers with 26 points. In the first quarter alone, Moore scored 11 to help give Minnesota an eight-point lead.

Moore is, of course, one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league in a capacity of ways, (whether it is shot creation for herself or for her teammates) and Sunday she once again demonstrated how easy it is for Minnesota to jump out to a quick lead if she catches fire early.

“Probably about six games ago, we felt we really made a concerted effort that we really wanted to get Maya going,” Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We felt like we needed her to play as she is playing right now.”

“I think the last couple of weeks, I felt more and more like myself to perform physically and mentally the way that my team needs,” Moore said.

“Everybody is just building off of each other and playing off of each other, and it just feels really good.”

While Moore dominated in the first quarter, Renee Montgomery took over in the second. Montgomery exploded for 15 second-quarter points, including a crucial four-point play at about the seven-minute mark.

Without Lindsay Whalen, Montgomery showed that she can be relied on to create some offense of her own. She ended the afternoon shooting 6-of-11 from the field with three triples and 18 points.

But as great as Moore and Montgomery were, Minnesota’s second half defense was arguably the difference maker.

The Lynx held the Mystics to just 28 second half points, 14 in each quarter. That was as many points as Minnesota gave up in the second quarter alone.

As a team, they were able to hold Washington to 25-of-63 shooting, or 39.7 percent. Ultimately, their renewed defensive intensity after the half allowed them to stop Washington from going on any significant run, in what started out as an extremely choppy game.

And now, as the regular season ends, and the second season begins, there’s no doubt that Minnesota’s defensive intensity will only increase. Ultimately, while their offense is scary, a consistent defense can be downright lethal to their opponents.

The Lynx are talented enough that they didn’t really need any extra motivation during the 2017 season; however, the way they lost in the 2016 Finals gave them an unquestionably large dose.

“Earning first place, it’s one of those things where they have two days to soak it up and recognize all that they’ve done,” Reeve said.

“It shouldn’t get lost on anyone how hard this is to do. After that, they are not allowed to think about those things, because how you finish in the regular season is not what matters. Where we finish in the postseason is what matters.”

Now, beginning on Sept. 12, they will finally get their shot at redemption.