MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — If Seimone Augustus is forced to miss more time, the Minnesota Lynx showed they’ve got the necessary reinforcements.
Maya Moore scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter and the Lynx pulled away to hand the Phoenix Mercury their worst loss of the season, 91-59, on Sunday night.
Augustus sprained her left ankle and left the game for good with 7:01 to play in the second quarter. X-rays after the game were negative, but Augustus will have an MRI on Monday.
“Coming out of the half we knew we were going to have to collectively step up and continue to bring the energy and aggression Seimone had brought in that first quarter,” Moore said. “We’re confident she’ll make her return. In the meantime we’re going to continue to do our best to get wins.”
With Augustus in the locker room for most of the game, Monica Wright stepped up with a season-high 17 points off the bench and Lindsay Whalen chipped in 14 as Minnesota earned its third victory over the Mercury this season in a 10-game winning streak against the Phoenix that dates to the 2011 playoffs.
WNBA leading scorer Diana Taurasi, who entered the contest averaging 23 points per game, was held to a season-low 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting for Phoenix. She averaged 24.5 points per game in this season’s first two meetings against the Lynx (8-3).
“That’s just me not being aggressive,” Taurasi said. “I have to do a better job of being aggressive and finding better spots to get more shots up.”
DeWanna Bonner, the Mercury’s second-leading scorer, had seven points on 3-for-13 shooting. She was 0 for 13 in her previous matchup against Minnesota.
Candice Dupree was Phoenix’s only double-figure scorer with 12 points, while rookie Brittney Griner had eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
It was a night to forget for the Mercury, who committed a season-high 21 turnovers — the most by a Lynx opponent this season. Phoenix shot just 36 percent overall, and connected on just 3 of 14 3-point attempts. The 59 points scored were a season low for the Mercury, and a low for any Minnesota opponent this season.
The Lynx held a 35-5 edge in free throw attempts.
“We started the game bad, started the third quarter bad, just had a bad game,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “We hadn’t had one in a long time. A trash game. That’s it.”
Minnesota’s defense set the tone in the first half, holding the league’s No. 1 offense to 29 points on 32.5 percent shooting while also forcing nine Mercury turnovers.
Phoenix grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the first half, but couldn’t take advantage, converting just 1 of 9 second-chance opportunities.
Moore then caught fire, scoring eight points during a 14-6 Lynx run to start the second half. Minnesota led by at least 14 points the rest of the way.
“Our commitment to the defensive game plan was really fun to watch and really difficult to play against,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “There’s not many nights you’re going to have the good fortune of holding one of the world’s greatest players to just four points. It was a total team effort in the way we defended her.”
The Mercury (8-5) had their season-best five-game winning streak snapped and missed a chance to take over the top spot in the Western Conference from Minnesota. The Lynx have held at least a share of first place in the conference for nearly two years — since defeating Phoenix on July 20, 2011.
That victory started Minnesota’s current run of 10 wins in 11 regular-season games against the Mercury. Including the 2011 playoffs, the Lynx have won 10 straight against Phoenix.
“We’ll see them again when it counts,” Gaines said.
Janel McCarville also finished in double figures with 11 points for Minnesota, which extended its franchise-record home winning streak to 14 games dating to last season.