MINNEAPOLIS — Lindsay Whalen scored 20 points, Seimone Augustus had 19 and the defending champion Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm, 78-70, in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night.
Maya Moore added 16 points and Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Lynx. Whalen also had six assists and four rebounds.
“They have multiple weapons out there,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “If you give too much attention to any one person, someone else will take advantage of it. Tonight, (Whalen) took advantage.”
Rookie reserve Shekinna Stricklen had 13 points to lead Seattle. Katie Smith and Lauren Jackson added 12 points each.
Seattle twice rallied to cut its defecit to six points in the final 12 minutes, but Minnesota — 16-1 at home this season — pulled away each time.
The best-of-three series continues Sunday in Seattle.
The Lynx started the second half on a 15-8 run to extend their six-point halftime lead to 13 on Candice Wiggins’ 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Storm finished the period on an 11-3 run to keep it close. Augustus scored eight points in the period for the Lynx.
Minnesota extended its lead to 12 points on Brunson’s jumper with 5:06 to play. Seattle responded again with an 8-0 run, but Moore and Augustus made shots in the final two minutes to spur the Lynx, whose 5-of-6 free-throw shooting in the last 32 seconds sealed it.
Minnesota, which took three of four from the Storm during the regular season, turned the ball over nine times in the first 20 minutes and led just 33-27 despite holding Seattle to 29-percent shooting from the floor.
Jackson, a three-time league MVP, didn’t play in any of the teams’ four regular-season games as she was training with the Australian national team for the London Olympics. The Lynx won three of those matchups.
Jackson played a season-high 27 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as Seattle shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and never led. Minnesota improved to 18-0 when holding opponents below 40 percent this season.
“I didn’t get the looks I was getting in the first half,” Jackson said. “They changed their defense up. We definitely have to look at how we’re going to combat that next game.”
The Lynx and Storm are matching up in the postseason for the first time since the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, which Seattle swept on the way to the first of its two league titles.
Minnesota is trying to become the first repeat champion since Los Angeles in 2001-02. Houston (1997-2000) won the league’s first four titles.