Try as they might Atlanta could not wake themselves for 40 minutes of basketball Sunday night in game one of the WNBA Finals. The Minnesota Lynx had turned the game into a complete nightmare and took a commanding grasp on the series with a 84-59 victory. It wasn't just the final score, the Lynx showed poise, depth and a defensive energy and hunger that the nearly 14,000 in attendance sensed and fed off of.
"We opened the first 20 minutes the way that we wanted to. It was establishing how we were going to play and it was going to play and it was going to be off our defense, our tough defense," said head coach Cheryl Reeve. "Once we cleaned up some of the turnovers, we got in rhythm on offense and played off our "D" and had a solid first half."
Playing in her third Finals, Maya Moore led all scorers with 23 points but it was the play of Monica Wright off the bench that proved to be the difference. Wright scored 20 points but was gritty on the defensive end of the floor in the win.
"It's the Finals, so you want to leave it all out there," Wright said. "But obviously we got it done tonight and my teammates have all the confidence in the world in me and it was just falling tonight."
Defensively, the Lynx held the Dream to just 31 percent from the field including a 0-for-15 effort from three-point range.
"I noted it in the locker room right away, that's got to cut in half," said Dream head coach Fred Williams. "We've got to take three's sometimes because teams pack it in the paint and leave it out there for us. But we've got to get away from that percentage shot and the take one dribble in and take the "hard 2" as I call it."
Leading by eight after the first quarter, the Lynx outscored the Dream 20-9 in the second quarter including a dagger three-pointer with time running out before halftime that extended the lead to 19.
Despite a slow start in the third, Minnesota extended the lead to 25 at the end of three quarters and by the midway point of the fourth quarter all five starters were resting comfortably on the bench.
"We don't want to ever relax," said Moore. "The work that we do in the first half, we want to make sure that it means something. So in order to protect what we just did, we have to go out and play just as well or better in the second half."
The Lynx held Dream forward Angel McCoughtry to just 6-for-24 shooting and 17 points.
"We've been through this before, " McCoughtry said. "First game against Washington it was the same thing. We bounced back, we regrouped, we'll figure it out. That's the type of team we are."
For Minnesota, the win was just the first step in as their coach puts it a 200-minute series.
"I told them congratulations for playing the defense that we worked on all week. We spent a lot of time driving home what needed to happen," said Reeve. "I promised them if they did these things we would win Game 1."
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Target Center.