MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Forced to the outside early in the game, Lindsay Whalen and the Minnesota Lynx were frustrated and trailed by a point at halftime. When she finally got comfortable in the lane, the game changed dramatically.
Whalen scored 23 points and helped break open a close game in the final 12 minutes Tuesday night as Minnesota cruised to an 87-72 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars for the Lynx's franchise-best 11th consecutive home win.
``You always want to be aggressive and don't want to force too much, but I talked to coach and she told me what they'd be doing,'' said Whalen. ``I felt like I was settling for the jumper early, so it was good to get back in the lane and be aggressive.''
After Davellyn Whyte's 3-pointer pulled the Silver Stars to 52-50 with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Minnesota went on an 18-4 run to take control.
Monica Wright scored nine points during the spurt and Whalen capped it with two free throws and a layup that extended the advantage to 70-54 with 7:15 to go.
San Antonio, playing for the third time in five nights, shot 1 for 12 during that game-turning stretch.
``We didn't handle it very well, and the run just got too long,'' Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. ``It was their aggressive nature on the glass and the way they attacked us. They got in the lane. We had done a pretty good job of protecting the lane and scoring in the lane, and they changed the dynamics, Whalen especially. We had a hard time keeping her geographically where we wanted to have her.''
Maya Moore, celebrating her 24th birthday, finished with 19 points for the Lynx (3-1). Seimone Augustus added 18 points and Wright finished with 16.
Shenise Johnson scored 16 points and Danielle Robinson added 12 to lead the Silver Stars (2-3), who are still playing without injured stars Becky Hammon and Sophia Young. Hammon is recovering from a broken finger in training camp and Young injured her knee while playing in China during the offseason.
Hughes praised Johnson as the latest bench player to step up while they await their stars' return.
``You look at our team, and you take two kids out, Sophia Young and Becky Hammon, and it pushes a couple kids up,'' Hughes said. ``The other kids now kind of slide into that bench situation. This is a young team that is still learning roles a little bit.''
San Antonio went on a 9-0 run late to pull to 72-65 with 4:48 left before Maya Moore hit a 3-pointer to regain the momentum for Minnesota.
It was a very physical game for long stretches, with both coaches getting technical fouls for aggressively protesting to the officials. For the Lynx, who dispatched San Antonio in the opening round of the WNBA playoffs last season, it was what they expected from a matchup with the Silver Stars.
``I thought it was a good, old-fashioned San Antonio-Minnesota game,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. ``This is how these two teams play each other. I was really proud of our defense.''
The Silver Stars emerged from a physical first half with a 36-35 lead. They got there via a dozen lead changes and had seven players with four or more points at the break.