MINNEAPOLIS - The defending champion Minnesota Lynx got a reminder from the San Antonio Stars that nothing comes easy in the postseason.
Hours after being named the WNBA’s most valuable player, Maya Moore scored 24 points to help the beat the Stars 88-84 Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.
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Minnesota led by 15 with 9 minutes to go before the Stars went on an 18-2 run to go ahead, 73-72 lead with 4:12 to play. However, Seimone Augustus scored six of her 16 points in the final 2:11 as Minnesota recovered to pull out the win.
“I was happy for a large part of the game, then something bad happened. Up 70-55 we kind of had them right where we wanted and then the bottom fell out defensively,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, crediting Augustus, who has battled knee problems this season, for righting the ship. “Mone was big. Those last three baskets were huge for us.”
Game 2 of the best-of-3 series is at San Antonio on Saturday night.
Kayla McBride scored 21 points to lead the Stars. Becky Hammon scored 14 of her 17 in the second half, including a spinning shot with 1.9 seconds left that pulled the Stars within two.
“She wants to keep playing in a big way,” Stars coach Dan Hughes said of Hammon, who will retire at season’s end to become an assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. “I’ve had a ringside seat for about 50 of those, so that didn’t totally surprise me.”
However, Moore made two free throws with 1.3 seconds left and the Lynx beat the Stars for the 18th time in 21 meetings.
After the Stars controlled the game early, Minnesota went on an 8-0 run and led by double digits in the first quarter, capped off by a highlight-reel alley-oop play with Lindsay Whalen passing to Moore for an emphatic bucket.
Then the Lynx struggled, missing eight consecutive shots, and the Stars capitalized and pulled to 24-22. However, the Lynx started making shots again and increased their lead to 14 before taking a 40-30 advantage at halftime.
Moore led all first-half scorers with 13 while McBride had 10 for San Antonio.
“I was just trying to come in and give us some energy early by knocking down shots,” said McBride, a rookie from Notre Dame who was playing in her first playoff game.
Hammon made a driving layup, was fouled, and hit the free throw to put San Antonio ahead 73-72 with just over four minutes left. But it was a short-lived advantage, as Moore hit a layup to put Minnesota back up for good, then blocked McBride’s layup attempt on the ensuing possession.
"That’s what the playoffs are about,” Moore said, after Minnesota opened its 10th playoff series in the past four years. “It’s about option 3 and option 4 and who can be more persistent at what they want to get. San Antonio and, especially, Becky will keep working until she gets what she wants, and we had to make it tough on her."
Whalen finished with 11 assists and 10 points for Minnesota, which lost in San Antonio during its last regular season meeting.