Lynx 92, Storm 67
By taking the Western Conference lead before last weekend's All-Star break, the Minnesota Lynx served notice they are a much different team this season.
With another convincing victory Friday, Minnesota might be showing its getting even better.
Maya Moore added 12 points and Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 10 to help the Lynx (12-4) win their fifth straight and seventh in eight games. Minnesota extended its lead in the West to one game over idle San Antonio.
''I think there's a lot more ahead,'' Augustus said. ''The best is yet to come. We're just now starting to hit our stride. Everybody is feeling good about themselves right now. It's scary the possibilities that we have with this team, the opportunities ahead of us to do great things.''
Minnesota has never had a winning record in games after the All-Star break, but this team is trying to keep its history in the past.
''This group came back on a mission to kind of reverse the fortunes of the Lynx,'' Minnesota second-year coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''People talk a lot about previous years. This team, the only thing they cared about was last year. I couldn't tell you what happened in the years before. We don't really care. I think it's more, with this group, there was a certain level of determination.''
With a resurgent Augustus, and Moore finding her way in her rookie season, the Lynx have several weapons. With four All-Stars in Augustus, Moore, Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota had the most players on the West All-Star team. McWilliams-Franklin was another offseason addition.
''This team has gotten better,'' Augustus said. ''We finally got the pieces to the puzzle and we're ready to roll. But we also understand that they are missing a big piece to their team in Lauren Jackson. They're still a tough team.''
Minnesota started on a 7-0 run, but Seattle came back. Cash, who led the West with 21 points in last weekend's All-Star game, hit two 3-pointers to get the Storm started and she scored 10 of the team's 16 points in the first quarter.
But with Augustus and Moore leading the way, Minnesota took control.
The Lynx went on a 33-12 run spanning the end of the first and start of the second to lead 46-26. Augustus scored eight points and Moore added seven during the spurt.
''I wouldn't be surprised if they shot the ball eighty-something percent,'' Cash said. ''They were hitting everything they threw up. I mean, everybody on their team.''
Minnesota eventually led by 32, marking the fifth time in eight games, and ninth overall, the Lynx have led by at least 20. They've led by 30 three times this season.
The Lynx had 24 assists led by Moore's season-high six.
Seattle knows its facing a different Minnesota team than it has in the past.
''Just compared to last year, they are healthy,'' Bird said. ''In the WNBA, health is the No. 1 key. I mean, look at our team. That's what I see. With that, they were able to add some high draft picks and really form a nice solid core group and they're able to build chemistry.''
The Storm came in with back-to-back wins against San Antonio and Phoenix - the two teams ahead of them in the West - as they try to re-establish themselves as a factor even without three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, who has played only five games this season.
''Any game like this is disappointing, especially with a chance to continue to creep up the standings,'' Bird said. ''Hopefully we'll be able to learn from this. Regardless of what the score was, it's a loss. It's just one game. We have one tomorrow and in a way, I feel like everyone in this locker room is happy about that. The one team in the world that is happy with a back-to-back is in this locker room right now.''
Seattle couldn't get untracked against Minnesota's swarming defense.
The Storm shot just 42 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers, leading to 25 Lynx points.
Minnesota has scored 88 points off of 60 turnovers in the past three games.
''I think there's a lot of good basketball left,'' Reeve said. ''It's fun. We're 12-4. Bottom line is we haven't done anything yet. I think this group knows that more than any other group I've been a part of.''