Minneapolis, MN – After a middling performance in just escaping the playoff's opening round, Minnesota wanted to make a statement.
Maya Moore scored 20 points with five rebounds and five assists and Seimone Augustus added 16 points, seven assists and six boards, as Minnesota downed Los Angeles, 94-77, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Rebekkah Brunson posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, which is trying to become the first team to repeat as WNBA champs since the Sparks accomplished the feat in 2001 and 2002.
Candace Parker led all scorers with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Alana Beard added 16 points and Kristi Toliver recorded 12 for the Sparks, who swept their way into the Western Conference finals, but failed to gain any momentum and saw their hopes fade in the second quarter.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday in Los Angeles. The Lynx are just 4-21 all-time in the Sparks' home arena.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, the defending WNBA champs took to the interior and built a comfortable margin by halftime. Brunson and Augustus were the key contributors early, scoring 13 of the team's first 15 points in the second period, including Brunson's layup that opened a 31-20 margin.
Moore's triple capped eight straight points for a 34-20 lead, and the Lynx continued the long-distance barrage with two more threes, the last by Augustus that pushed the score to 46-26. The Sparks sliced into the lead, but Lindsay Whalen's bucket beat the buzzer for a 48-31 lead. Whalen, who played with a broken left ring finger and a bruised left wrist, finished with 12 points.
The Sparks trailed thanks to Minnesota's 50 percent shooting and 22-11 rebounding edge.
The Lynx fed off the home crowd as they have all season, riding the emotion to a large lead they didn't relinquish in the second half, improving to 19-1 at home this season.
The advantage grew to 57-33 on Taj McWilliams-Franklin's jumper with just under six minutes to go in the third, but Los Angeles showed a little spark late in the period, slicing the deficit to 66-53 on Beard's jumper in the final seconds.
The margin whittled down to 10 at one point, but Minnesota never felt threatened in the fourth, pushing the lead back to 89-72 on Moore's fadeaway with just under two minutes to go.