MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Lynx offense is humming at a record clip and their defense has caused the Atlanta Dream’s biggest star to come unglued.
A second WNBA title in three seasons is right there in front of them. Now that the series is heading to the South, they don’t plan on coming back home for another game. They plan on coming back home for another party.
Seimone Augustus scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen had 14 points and five assists to push the Lynx to the brink of the championship with an 88-63 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.
“It’s right there,” said Augustus, who made 9 of 12 shots. “We’ve got 40 more minutes, 80 more possessions to get to where we want to be and get to what we feel like we deserve.”
Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Maya Moore chipped in 14 points and eight boards for the Lynx, who set a finals record with 56.9 percent shooting and lead the best-of-five series 2-0.
Angel McCoughtry scored 15 points for the Dream, but she made just 5 of 18 shots and was in foul trouble for most of the night.
Game 3 is on Thursday night in Georgia.
“We don’t want to have to come back to Minneapolis,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When we come back to Minneapolis, it’s going to be for a parade, not to play Game 5.”
The series is taking on a similar tone to the first time these two met in the finals two years ago, when the Lynx swept the Dream for the franchise’s first title. Minnesota was upset by Indiana in the finals last year, and entered this series determined to show last year’s disappointment was a fluke.
Moore had an emphatic swat of McCoughtry on a drive midway through the first quarter, and Moore glared at Atlanta’s combustible star, who is 11 for 42 from the field in the first two games.
Game 3 won’t be played at the Dream’s usual home — Phillips Arena in Atlanta — because of a scheduling conflict with Disney On Ice. Instead, the teams will meet at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, about 20 minutes away. Moore will feel as at home as the Dream at Gwinnett, where she led her high school to three Georgia state titles.
“As long as it’s in the state of Georgia, I’m good with that,” Atlanta coach Fred Williams said.
The Lynx controlled Game 1 from the opening tip, leading by as many as 31 points en route to an 84-59 victory and came into Game 2 overflowing with confidence.
A message on the video board just before the opening tip read: “Game 1 we made a statement. Game 2 we will make history. We’re leaving Minnesota after tonight, but we’ll be bringing something back with us.”
A photo of the championship trophy followed, eliciting a roar from the amped-up home crowd, and the Lynx followed with a ferocious start to seize control.
Williams had to shuffle his starting lineup after sparkplug Tiffany Hayes injured her back and tailbone on a nasty spill in Game 1. The Dream went big with 6-foot-4 Aneika Henry next to the 6-foot-5 Erika De Souza.
Hayes came off the bench, but she wasn’t the dynamic player she has been for Atlanta this season. And even with the big lineup the Dream were still outscored 42-26 in the paint and outrebounded 40-22.
“There’s really no panic mode for this team,” Williams said. “I think we have an opportunity for us to still have the fire lit and keep it burning. It’s our turn to go home and see what happens from there.”
Whalen was the initiator early, bulling to the basket and using her elbows to create space among the tall trees in the paint to get the Lynx out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter.
McCoughtry missed her first six shots and fouled out with just under four minutes to play. Her frustration was visible throughout the game and reality may be setting in.
“We don’t want to believe it’s over, but it’s tough playing the Lynx, you know?” McCoughtry said. “They’re so deep. They shoot the ball so well. Let’s hope they don’t shoot so well on our court.”
The Dream got to within 10 midway through the third quarter, but Minnesota responded promptly with an 8-0 burst to regain a comfortable lead.
“We know Atlanta is going to bring everything,” Augustus said. “They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at us. We’re expecting them to come out and try to do whatever they can to not be eliminated in Game 3.”
NOTES: Jasmine Thomas was the only other Dream player in double figures with 11. … Janelle McCarville had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Lynx. … The league announced ratings for Sunday’s Game 1. The league said ratings were up 14% over Game 1 last year. … The Lynx turned the ball over 20 times, led by Whalen’s seven.