This year’s West finals, based on the first game played Thursday in Minneapolis, is Ali-Frazier like. “[Like] two heavyweight fighters going blow by blow,” remarked a relieved Seimone Augustus after Minnesota’s 67-60 win over Phoenix to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semi-finals series.
“It was the ugliest game I’ve played in,” admitted Augustus, who finished with 14 points, one of four Lynx starters in double figures.
Thursday’s box score was a perfect indication of how competitive the game was: Mercury led by seven after one. Lynx outscored the visitors by 10 to take a three-point halftime lead. Both squads scored seven baskets each after halftime, and the winners scored just two baskets more than their opponents to finish the contest.
“It was a grind-it-out game,” said Minnesota guard Renee Montgomery.
“Each team played hard,” added Phoenix guard Noelle Quinn. “It’s about effort — they wanted it more.”
Even more so, it was a game where Augustus’ teammate, forward Rebekkah Brunson — who played all but eight seconds — was the difference-maker. She bailed the Lynx out with crucial second-chance rebounds at key parts of the contest. Her 19 rebounds set a franchise record and her postseason best, good for fourth in league playoff history.
She also had seven offensive rebounds. “Brunson had them all,” noted Montgomery, who didn’t avoid using hyperbole to describe the 12th year forward’s board mastery that night. “When we needed a basket, she got us [a second possession],” she added.
Brunson and center Sylvia Fowles combined for 33 boards, three more than the entire Phoenix club.
Despite the bad officiating, both teams combined attempted 33 free throws; and the two squads in their third consecutive postseason meeting proved that Thursday’s game, and the series overall, won’t be a cakewalk.
“I don’t think there’s an edge,” said Augustus.
“We played each other five times [during the regular season],” said Quinn, a former Lynx. “Nothing surprising.”
The home team has won the past 12 meetings, including playoffs — as a result, if it all plays out on Sunday, Game Two in Phoenix should be a doozie.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.