The Target Center was alive. 13,804 screaming fans came out in support of their three-time Western Conference Champion Lynx, and brought all the passion one would expect during a Finals series.
“For us it was great, because we fed off of that energy, and so many moments in the game where we may have felt tired, but we heard our fans cheering for us. For the opposing team it was hell…because they couldn’t get anything going, and they couldn’t hear anything. It’s great to see how the city is supporting us and just coming out and having a great time.”
Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus
The game itself was high energy, but Atlanta seemed overwhelmed by the intensity of Minnesota’s defense, as well as the Lynx efficiency on the offensive side. Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry struggled to find her rhythm, and forced her shot too much, finishing the night 6-24 from the field with 5 turnovers, and 4 fouls.
McCoughtry was not alone, but unfortunately her teammates couldn’t find anything to build off of either, and found themselves in a very tough position against a volatile Lynx defense. The Dream shot 29% for the game, and even though the effort was there, the execution fell short.
“We’ve been through this before. 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. It’s going to be a dogfight. We’re here to fight to the end.”
Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry
Minnesota took control of the game early, and never backed down. After building a 19-point lead going into the half, they continued grinding and building on that lead until the final buzzer sounded.
Aside from defense, the major variance within the game was ball control. The Lynx did a phenomenal job sharing the basketball and understanding their roles, and won the assists battle with 23 assists to Atlanta’s 8 assists.
“They were ready tonight, they came out ready to go. They looked good, they were sharp, and we got hit in the mouth. We’re going to be ready on Tuesday.”
Atlanta Dream guard Armintie Herrington
All season Minnesota has been building a culture of playing as a unit versus showcasing an individual. That mindset may lead to fewer individual awards, but it’s a culture that can create Champions.
“It’s just a matter of mental maturity and knowing how to take the moment, you know, as it comes. We don’t want to ever relax. The work we do in the first half, we want to make sure that that 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… That’s our mindset, we don’t give up, we don’t relent. We want to win every game.”
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore
The bigs for Atlanta held their own, with centers Erika DeSouza and Aneika Henry both playing smart, doing a nice job of boxing out, and working hard for rebounds. They were the only two Dream players who shot above 50%, DeSouza finished with 10 points, and 7 rebounds, while bench player Aneika Henry pulled down an impressive 14 rebounds to go with her 14 points.
For the Lynx the key in game 1 was the play of Monica Wright off the bench, she has adapted to her role, and got on a roll throughout the contest, playing a smart, high energy brand of basketball. Wright had a spectacular game putting up 20 points on 9-14 shooting, while adding 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals to her totals.
“Monica has been that way for them ever since she’s been in a Lynx uniform. She comes off the bench, gives the spark, like Tiffany Hayes for us, when she was coming off the bench for us. That was one of my concerns before the game, Monica’s speed and turning the corner and being able to distribute the basketball. She did a good job tonight.”
Atlanta Dream Head Coach Fred Williams
The game also featured strong play from Lynx starters Maya Moore, and Seimone Augustus. Maya was the driving force for the Lynx starters, and kept her motor going for the entire contest, she scored a game-high 23 points to go with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Seimone Augustus provided that swagger and poise to the line-up that has become her trademark. She finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 blocked shot.
Looking ahead to game 2, it is crucial that the Lynx avoid the tendency to be overconfident that can follow a statement performance like the 84-59 victory in game 1. While the Dream will attempt to find their focus, regroup, and create a plan to swing the momentum of the series. Both teams head back to Target Center on Tuesday as the Lynx look to utilize the home-court crowd in game 2.
“Our fans have brought it all year, every game. There hasn’t been a game, even before we got to the playoffs. I mean they had just been tremendous. I’m really, really proud to represent the league the way that we have. You know, we’re on ESPN Worldwide and what a show our fans put on tonight so kudos to them.”
Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve