MINNEAPOLIS — With their best player on the bench in street clothes, the still-unbeaten Minnesota Lynx turned in their most lopsided win of the season.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored 17 points and the Lynx improved to 8-0 with a 79-55 rout of Seattle on Wednesday night.
The Lynx moved within one victory of tying the WNBA record set by Los Angeles in 2001 of victories to start the season. The Sparks also won their first nine games in 2003.
The win came without leading scorer Seimone Augustus, who was sidelined with a right quad strain.
“It’s disconcerting for the rest of the league when we don’t have our best player…and we still win by almost 30,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “That says a lot, especially with the defense that Seattle is known to play.”
It didn’t matter with five Lynx players scoring in double figures — McWilliams-Franklin, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Devereaux Peters and Candice Wiggins.
“I told Seimone, `it must feel good that we really don’t need you,”’ joked Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve. “It felt good for Maya and Wiggins because our thing was when we’re a man down we’ve got to man up. We didn’t want to have any heroes. We were going to do it as a team and cover for Seimone.”
Seattle, which fell to 1-5, was paced by 14 points from Tanisha Wright, but never fully recovered after falling behind early. Storm coach Brian Agler said that seeing Augustus out of the lineup for Minnesota is a situation he knows well.
“We’re pretty familiar with not having our best player,” said Agler. The Storm are without leading scorer Lauren Jackson, who is training in Australia for the Olympics. “We don’t really talk about it at all. I look at it as an opportunity for some other players to step up.”
It was Seattle’s second loss in Minnesota in 10 days. The Storm got off to another poor start again, trailing 25-8 after one quarter.
Trailing by as many as 18, the Storm made a second quarter run and cut Minnesota’s advantage in half, but the Lynx hit two shots in the final minute of the half and led 43-30 after 20 minutes. Brunson led all first half scorers with 10 for Minnesota, while Wright had 8 points for the Storm.
Seattle, which is in the midst of a season-long five-game road trip, started another mini-rally early in the third quarter, cutting the Lynx lead to seven points in one stretch, but again saw Minnesota’s WNBA-leading offense turn the tide.
“Sometimes you learn more when you lose,” said Sue Bird, who had five points for Seattle. “Unfortunately we’ve been doing a lot of that, so hopefully we’re learning from this and we’ll be able to turn it around.”
Augustus warmed up but was not able to play with a nagging injury that has gotten progressively worse. Reeve made the call to give Augustus, the MVP of the 2011 finals, the night off.
“I told her I had a great time sitting courtside,” said Augustus, who will try to play in Minnesota’s next game, Saturday in Tulsa.
“It’s hard to sit there, but at the same time I had a lot of fun tonight seeing them play well together.”