MINNEAPOLIS – On a night when their head coach and rookie teammate collected league honors, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus showed why the Minnesota Lynx might not be done accepting trophies this year.
Whalen scored 20 points and Augustus added 19 as Minnesota's MVP candidates carried the Lynx past the San Antonio Silver Stars 66-65 in Game 1 of their WNBA Western Conference semifinal on Friday.
Whalen also made the game's biggest defensive play to seal the victory.
With 4 seconds left, the Silver Stars ran an inbound play on Minnesota's end of the court, looking for the game-winning shot.
But Whalen tipped Danielle Robinson's entry pass to Maya Moore, who dribbled out the clock for the win.
"I told Lindsay that's the biggest deflection I've seen in my life," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Lindsay's just been important to us all season long and tonight was no different. She just poses problems in the pick-and-roll game and she had a great bounce in her step."
Rebekkah Brunson grabbed 14 rebounds, Whalen added five assists and Moore chipped in 10 points just hours after she officially was selected as the WNBA Rookie of the Year and Reeve earned Coach of the Year honors.
Danielle Adams and Becky Hammon each scored 16 points for San Antonio, while Jia Perkins and Sophia Young added 10 points apiece.
The Silver Stars lost all four regular-season games against the Lynx as well, and two of them came down to the last possession, just like Friday's game, a trend that's starting to wear thin with the Silver Stars.
"At some point, the ball is going to bounce our way, being so close so many times," said Hammon, whose 3-pointer with 1 minute, 10 seconds left gave the Silver Stars a 65-64 lead.
"But give them credit — they closed a little better than we did, and you move on to the next one.
"Yeah, we feel like it's a missed opportunity, but we still feel like there's some good basketball left to be played."
Augustus made an 11-foot jumper to give the Lynx the lead back with 53.1 seconds left, then grabbed a huge defensive rebound after a San Antonio miss.
It was part of a big night for Minnesota's leading scorer, who hit 8 of her last 16 shots after going 0 for 2 in the first quarter.
"I felt like it took me a quarter to get into the game," Augustus said. "I didn't start to get into the groove until the second quarter and I pushed it through to the rest of the game."
The Lynx had a 22-7 advantage at the free-throw line, although Moore and Brunson each missed a pair in the final 10 seconds to set up the Silver Stars' last possession.
"The difference in the game was their ability to go to the line and ours not," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said.
"And I've got to study that because we're a team that typically does not foul. And to put them to the line with a discrepancy of ... 22 to 7, that's a separation there."
The Lynx posted the league's best regular-season record (27-7) and won the Western Conference by six games, putting them back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
And their fans have noticed — the game was played in front of a crowd of 11,891, Minnesota's largest of the season and 7,000 more fans than attended Minnesota's last home playoff game.
"I think it's great," Whalen said. "I think we all just take pride in what we've been able to do all year. Everyone on the team has felt the energy and the enthusiasm from the fans and the crowd."
The Lynx showed some playoff jitters in a sluggish first quarter, hitting just 2 of its first 12 shots as the Silver Stars led by as much as eight.
But Minnesota's two veteran All-Stars carried the team through their shaky start.
Whalen scored 12 first-half points and Augustus added seven points in the second quarter as the Lynx fought their way back into the game.
"Not the way we envisioned, but a win is a win, whether you played well or you grinded it out like we did," Reeve said.
Game 2 will be Sunday afternoon in San Antonio, where the Lynx — who went 13-4 on the road this year, by far the best road mark in the league — can close out the first playoff series victory in franchise history.