The Atlanta Dream’s hope, keeping Maya Moore from a hometown WNBA title celebration, is in great peril heading into today’s Game 3.
Moore’s Minnesota Lynx, off back-to-back blowout victories in the best-of-five series, can clinch the championship with a win as the league showcase heads to the Arena at Gwinnett Center, where Moore won three high school titles as a Collins Hill player.
The Duluth venue also would host Game 4, if necessary, Sunday night because the Dream’s typical home, Philips Arena, is hosting “Disney on Ice.”
Minnesota looks like it’s ready to put this series on ice, rolling to an 88-63 win Tuesday night after an 84-59 two days earlier. Seimone Augustus scored 20 points in the Game 2 triumph, while Moore scored 14.
The Lynx won the WNBA title two years ago, when Moore was a rookie.
“It’s right there,” Augustus said. “We have 40 more minutes, 80 more possessions to get to where we want to be and get to what we feel like we deserve. But we know that Atlanta is going to bring everything. They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at us. We’re expecting them to come out and just try to do whatever they can to not be eliminated in Game 3.”
A few major themes have aided Minnesota’s routs.
The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry, the leading scorer in the league during the regular season, scored 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting in Game 2. She made just 6 of 24 shots in the first game for Atlanta, which is now 0-8 in WNBA Finals games.
While the Dream’s shooting has been off — 31 percent in Game 1 and 35.8 percent in Game 2 — Minnesota has been very efficient from the field, 49.4 percent in Game 1 and a staggering 56.9 in Game 2.
The Lynx also held a 40-22 rebounding edge in Game 2, which stifled some of the Dream’s preferred transition game.
“You can’t transition until you rebound,” Atlanta’s Armintie Herrington said. “We have to get to those missed shots in order to go the other way. I think we got some steals, I think we did OK that way. We just have to keep pushing and keep digging and keep being aggressive. We have to make it tough on them.”
Though the scores don’t indicate it, the Lynx players weren’t completely content with the wins in Games 1 and 2. They were admittedly sloppy at times, turning the ball over 20 times on Tuesday night.
Cleaning that up is an emphasis for Game 3, which Moore hopes ends with another title celebration at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
“It’s going to be the most focus you’ll see from us,” Moore said. “There are a couple of things on defense we want to clean up as well. We have more work to do and more toughness to bring since we are on the road.”
Atlanta wants to show it’s a better team, too. It trailed by 11 after the first quarter and by 15 at halftime, never cutting the lead to single digits in the second half.
The Dream must win both games in Gwinnett to force a deciding Game 5 in Minnesota.
“We’re not giving up,” Herrington said. “It doesn’t matter how many we’re down. We’re going to go into it just like we always do. We’re going to play for each other and play hard and try to get a ‘W.’ Nobody’s giving up in this locker room. We still have each other’s back and we still want a championship.”