Maya Moore recorded 34 points and 9 rebounds, guiding the Lynx to an 89-77 win over the Washington Mystics Friday night at Verizon Center. Moore's point total was one shy of her career-best figure, set last season in a game against Indiana.
Minnesota (1-0) was riddled with injuries during training camp, leaving them without Rebekkah Brunson, Devereaux Peters and Monica Wright. Peters and Wright are expected to return soon as both recover from knee scopes, but Brunson will likely be out through the All-Star break following surgery to repair tendinitis in her knee. All three are considered primary components for the Lynx, and the popular thought was their vacancy would cause a notable disruption in team continuity.
A few mistakes not normally committed by Minnesota did surface, but their threatening stance on both sides of the ball was not compromised. The Lynx accelerated quickly, building a lead as large as 17 in the first quarter and finished the period with a 27-14 advantage. Moore hit six of eight shots in the period, racking up 14 points.
The Mystics (0-1) retaliated in the second, with Monique Currie tying the score at 39 before the Lynx hit a pair of layups to reach intermission.
In the first half, Minnesota committed eight turnovers and made just two of eight free throws, while Washington turned the ball over only three times and made five of eight from the line.
The Lynx regathered their senses in both areas in the second half, but were exploited at the three-point line, an area opponents commonly attack with the Lynx defense usually converging in the paint. Ivory Latta hit four triples and scored 16 points in the third quarter, and the Mystics trailed 65-62 when the period ended.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt gave Washington its first lead on a baseline jumper early in the fourth, but that would be the only time Washington moved in front. Minnesota scored the next seven points and ultimately pulled away with a barrage of key jumpers and free throws.
The Lynx converted 16 of 19 free throws in the second half, forcing eight turnovers on the Mystics while giving up the ball just twice. Overall, Minnesota posted a 44-26 edge in the paint and a 44-31 lead in rebounds.
Beyond Moore, the Lynx got help from Seimone Augustus, who put in 24 points. Lindsay Whalen added 10 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
The most welcome surprise was Damiris Dantas, who started at power forward in the absence of Brunson and Peters. The 21-year-old rookie from Brazil has 6 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. Dantas made all three of her field goals, capitalizing on a Mystics defense who left the paint in order to contain top Lynx threats. Highlighting the debut was a three-point fake from Whalen that set up a wide-open pass to Dantas down low midway through the fourth quarter.
Latta led Washington with 25 points, making 7 of 9 shots from three-point range. Ruffin-Pratt added 17 points and 8 rebounds. The Mystics hit 7 of 8 field goals behind the arc in the second half after a 2-of-13 posting in the first half.
Minnesota plays its first home game Sunday afternoon against Connecticut at Target Center. The 4:00 p.m. matinee will be preceded by a ring presentation and hoisting of the 2013 WNBA championship banner.