The 7,834 fans roared as Lindsay Whalen, out because of an injury for weeks, was introduced as a starter Tuesday. It is clear: No matter what happens over the rest of this series, Williams Arena has been and still is Whalen’s house.
But that doesn’t mean Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles can’t sublet.
In the opening round of the WNBA semifinals at the Barn, Minnesota’s adopted playoff home, the Lynx came out firing. After eight days of waiting for the best-of-five series to start, through practice after practice, the Lynx were itching to play.
And did they.
Minnesota’s 101-81 victory over a Washington team coming in after two single-game elimination playoff victories was a rare display of offensive efficiency.
“Obviously, we made shots,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When you make shots, everything is good.”
Admonished by her grandmother to shoot more, Augustus played her best game of the year, scoring 24 points, making 11 of 17 shots, pulling down five rebounds and getting three assists. Fowles had 18 points and seven boards. Both Renee Montgomery (18) and Maya Moore (14) were in double figures as well.
But pretty much everyone was involved in this one. The Lynx shot 59.4 percent, made 12 of 17 three-pointers, scored 18 points off just 11 Washington turnovers.
Augustus’ 24 points were a season high, and the most she has scored in a playoff game since 2012.
“We got bombarded,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “Every time I turned around the ball was going through the net.”
And it wasn’t just offense. Whalen and Montgomery helped hold Washington guard Kristi Toliver — who had 32 points and a WNBA playoff-record nine three-pointers in the Mystics’ victory in New York on Sunday — to just three points. Mystics star Elena Delle Donne scored 17 points, but she had just 13 and was a minus-27 through the third quarter, which ended with the Lynx up 28.
“They punched first,” Delle Donne said. “Now we have to figure out a way to respond.”
The Lynx were up by eight after a quarter, 15 at the half and by as many as 29 in the second half. Five players made three-pointers, four scored in double figures, 11 scored, period.
“We’re just happy,” Moore said. “We had good flow, more than anything. People were getting involved, and we were taking the shots that we usually take. And make. That’s the beautiful thing about tonight. All the shots we were taking were the ones we always take.”
While the Lynx (28-7) had eight days off, the Mystics (20-16) played twice.
Still, it appeared the Mystics were ready in taking an early 14-10 lead. But, spurred by a Rebekkah Brunson three, the Lynx ended the quarter on a 16-4 run.
The Mystics got within three midway through the second quarter.
But from then on it was mainly Lynx. Especially the third quarter, when the Lynx hit 12 of 18 shots, and all seven of their three-pointers.
During the break Reeve and her staff had pushed hard for Augustus to play more aggressively, a course of action Sarah Augustus — her grandma — clearly endorsed. The result was a three-headed scoring machine of Augustus, Fowles and Moore that was hard to stop.
But that’s what Washington will try to do in Game 2 Thursday.
“We need to find a way to break their rhythm,” Thibault said.
“If they shoot like that the rest of the series, it will be a quick series.”