MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seimone Augustus, her left knee sore and looking exhausted from an all-around effort, lifted the Minnesota Lynx to the brink of their first WNBA title.
She's not ready to relax just yet. There's still some work to do.
Augustus scored 36 points to lead Minnesota's second-half surge, and the Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 101-95 in Game 2 of the league championship series on Wednesday night.
"The legacy isn't complete until you're holding the trophy," Augustus said.
Jessica Adair added 13 points in 18 minutes in a reserve role for the Lynx, who took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five matchup by overcoming 38 points by the Dream's Angel McCoughtry, who broke her own record for a WNBA finals game set last year. Game 3 is set for Friday night in Atlanta.
McCoughtry had 24 points in the first half, but she shot just 2 for 13 after halftime and shook her head in disgust afterward at what the Dream complained was an unfair discrepancy — 33-23, Atlanta — in the foul calls by officials Sue Blauch, Lamont Simpson and Kurt Walker.
"Let us battle out. Let us scratch and claw to the end. It's entertainment. That's what people want to see," McCoughtry said, a scowl on her face.
Coach Marynell Meadors was just as outspoken.
"I just really don't understand a lot of the things being called," she said.
With veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin on the bench with a sprained right knee suffered late in the third quarter, WNBA Rookie of the Year Maya Moore sitting for most of the game in foul trouble and fellow All-Star Rebekkah Brunson having a quiet game, Augustus took over.
Hearing "MVP" chants as she swished her free throws down the stretch, the sixth-year forward — who has suffered through her share of losing and injuries — finished 11 for 14 from the floor and 13 for 16 at the line to help the Lynx fight back from a pair of 10-point holes in the second quarter.
"As they say, 'Mone was in the zone," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
The Lynx took a 77-76 lead early in the fourth, their first edge since 20-19, and used a 10-0 spurt to turn an 85-81 deficit with five minutes to go into a comfortable lead in the closing minutes.
Augustus knocked down a floating baseline jumper with two Dream defenders in her face to give the Lynx an 87-85 lead. Lindsay Whalen, who had 13 points, banked in a spin-dribble turnaround shot and drew a foul to make the arena erupt in excitement as Moore lifted her up in a bear hug to celebrate. Whalen's three-point play made it 91-85 with 2:25 left.
Though the onslaught of whistles interrupted the flow of the game, which lasted 2 hours and 26 minutes, the Lynx weren't rattled.
"However the game is called, you just have to play through it. Whatever the refs are calling, that's what they see and you just have to move on," Whalen said.
The Dream led 58-50 after a dizzying first half by two of the WNBA's three highest-scoring teams. But McCoughtry started to miss more after halftime, unlike in Game 1 when she had 19 of her 33 points in the third quarter, and the Dream — who finished 21 for 32 at the line — bricked a bunch of free throws that came back to hurt them later.
Iziane Castro Marques was twice fouled while taking a 3-pointer and made only one of those six free-throw attempts. Lindsey Harding had 10 of her 14 points in the first half for the Dream. Erika de Souza finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Target Center was alive again, giving local sports fans a chance to cheer for some success in this swooning market. All kinds of folks in green and white T-shirts waving their white pom pons turned the atmosphere into another resounding advantage for the Lynx. Vikings players Bernard Berrian and Kevin Williams checked out the game from their court-side seats. Timberwolves executive David Kahn was there.
Even LeBron James was watching, from afar. He raved on Twitter about the performances put on by McCoughtry and Augustus.
After taking a three-game leave to play for her native Brazil in an Olympic qualifying tournament, de Souza brought her broad shoulders — with a tattoo on each one — back to the basket for the Dream, who were outscored 52-30 in the lane and outrebounded 40-28 during Game 1.
The 6-foot-5 de Souza struggled early, missing a short shot, traveling twice and committing an over-the-back foul before settling down and beginning to contribute. Even before she scored a point or grabbed a rebound, though, her presence was valuable, drawing the defense in and making it easier for McCoughtry to find shooting space outside.
The All-WNBA forward, who narrowly finished second in the league in scoring in just her third professional season, hit a leaning bank shot to start the second quarter and finished the frame with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key — as if to remind the crowd of 15,124 that the first half was all hers.
Well, almost all hers. Augustus had 14 points in the second quarter herself, deftly using her crossover dribble to slash to the lane and convert shot after off-balance bank shot.
"If I had to give everything I had, then so be it," Augustus said.