MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - After an eight-day layoff, Seimone Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx needed some time to get up to full speed against the Atlanta Dream.
Augustus scored 15 of her 25 points in the second half and the Lynx beat the Dream 96-85 on Friday night for their fourth straight victory after a season-opening loss.
``We felt like the first half we had to get that rust off. Those days that we had off, it was showing in the first half,' said Augustus, whose team hadn't played since June 9 at Seattle. ``(In the second half) we wanted to come out and jump on them early and set the tone and the tempo we felt like they had in the first half.'
Tied at 39 at the break, the Lynx went on a 13-0 run early in the third quarter to take control. They forced three quick turnovers that led directly to fast-break layups during the run, including Lindsay Whalen's shot over 6-foot-7 Alison Bales that turned into a three-point play.
Rebekkah Brunson capped the run with a coast-to-coast drive for a basket that forced an Atlanta timeout and gave Minnesota a 54-43 lead.
The Dream committed 11 of their 18 turnovers in the second half, which Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve attributed to better defense, once the Lynx regained a feel for the game after the layoff.
``They just didn't feel like they had a game flow from having all the days off, so it took us a little bit,' Reeve said. ``At halftime we just talked about getting back to what we do well, and that's defend. In the third quarter we really defended well and got a lot of run-outs, and that's how we built that lead.'
Brunson had 18 points and 14 rebounds for her fifth straight double-double, one short of the WNBA record to start a season. The 14 rebounds matched her league-leading season average and led Dream coach Marynell Meadors to suggest a novel - if illegal - solution to contain Brunson.
``Somehow you've got to tie her shoestrings together and not let her jump,' Meadors said. ``We didn't do a good job of keeping her off the boards, but she's a great rebounder.'
The Dream played without forward Sancho Lyttle, their second leading scorer and rebounder, who is competing for Spain's national team in EuroBasket Women 2011, a qualifying tournament for the London Olympics. Friday was the first of a six-game absence for Lyttle, and Meadors noted that her presence might have made a difference.
``That's the one that can match up with (Brunson),' Meadors said. ``We don't have anyone to match up with her.'
Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta (1-4) with 27 points. Erika de Souza added 18, Iziane Castro Marques 12 and Shalee Lehning 11.
Maya Moore scored 13 points for the Lynx, while Whalen finished with 16 points, eight assists, three steals and just one turnover and played a huge role in holding the lead throughout the second half. She made a pair of long jumpers on consecutive possessions, then stole a pass on the defensive end and triggered a transition layup by Moore that gave Minnesota its biggest lead, 78-64.
The Dream twice cut it to six in the final minutes, but failed to pull closer as Brunson hit two free throws and Augustus converted four in the last 34 seconds to ice the game.
Augustus, who left the game briefly because of a hip contusion, was 9 of 14 from the field and made all seven of her free throws. The Lynx shot 52.2 percent from the floor.
``The flow felt really good tonight,' Augustus said. ``Whatever Whalen was calling and whatever the coach was calling, me and Maya kind of played off each other and attacked when we had the opportunities.'
The Associated Press News Service
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