MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Lynx bulldozed the rest of the WNBA in the regular season, rarely tested while posting a 27-7 record that was six games better than the next closest team.
The San Antonio Silver Stars gave the No. 1 seed in the playoffs all they could handle in the first round, and that's just what the Lynx say they needed.
Seimone Augustus had 22 points and the Lynx beat the Silver Stars 85-67 on Tuesday night for the first playoff series victory in franchise history.
"I'm extremely happy that we were tested in the first round because you want to have an attitude of urgency throughout the playoffs," said Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who scored 16 points. "I think this put us back on our heels, the first two games, and now we can be prepared for the level that each team is going to play with against us."
Rebekkah Brunson added 15 points and nine rebounds and Maya Moore had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Lynx, who advance to play the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 is Thursday in Minnesota.
Sophia Young scored 17 points for the Silver Stars on 7-of-8 shooting. San Antonio turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 24 Lynx points, and was outrebounded 36-21.
Becky Hammon added 15 points and five assists, but she was the only other Stars player in double figures.
"This basketball team that we played has the ability to get to a level right now that is just awful good," Stars coach Dan Hughes said.
The Lynx, who own home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after dominating the league during the regular season, finally gave the tortured sports fans of Minnesota something to cheer about. The Vikings and Timberwolves were last-place teams and the Twins have the worst record in the American League.
So the fans are starting to rally around the Lynx.
"We didn't want to let you down!" Moore hollered to the crowd of 8,700 after the game.
In the deciding Game 3, the Lynx overcame an uncharacteristically quiet game from star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who finished with four points and three assists. The hometown girl didn't make her first shot until early in the fourth quarter, but she had plenty of help.
The other four starters scored in double figures and the Lynx shot 51 percent to turn a tense game in the first quarter into a rout.
"It's like other things that happened this year," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of their first playoff win. "It's great, but the goal isn't necessarily just to win a round. There's a bigger prize in mind."
The Lynx got off to another slow start in this one, falling behind 10-2 in the first three minutes against a Silver Stars team that gave them more trouble than any other team during their dominant regular season. San Antonio lost all four games in the season series, but twice took them down to the buzzer.
It was more of the same in the first two games of the playoffs, with Whalen getting a steal on an inbounds pass at the end of Game 1 to preserve a 66-65 victory before the Silver Stars cruised to an 84-75 win in Game 2 in San Antonio.
"It's an accomplishment for the Minnesota Lynx, for the organization and (owner) Glen Taylor and the fans of Minnesota," McWilliams-Franklin said. "And it's a relief because the Minnesota Lynx have never won a playoff series, so you're kind of relieved."
The Lynx shrugged off a 1-for-5 start to rip off runs of 10-0 and 17-0 over the next 11 minutes to build a 35-22 lead. McWilliams-Franklin, the 41-year-old center and emotional leader, got the team started, hitting a pair of jumpers from the left wing and diving on the floor to secure a loose ball and inject some much-needed energy.
"The fact that we hadn't won a three-game series before, it kind of shows our guts and our toughness," Augustus said.