Preview: Lynx (26-8) at Mercury (19-15)
Date: September 29, 2013 5:00 PM EDT
Diana Taurasi's peck on Seimone Augustus' cheek provided a light-hearted moment in an otherwise uneventful Minnesota Lynx blowout victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Another lackluster performance could result in Phoenix kissing its season goodbye.
Minnesota looks to make it a perfect 7 for 7 against the Mercury this season while advancing to the WNBA finals for the third straight year with a road victory Sunday.
Taurasi and Augustus got a little too close as the two headed up court in the fourth quarter Thursday, resulting in double personal fouls. As an official stepped in to separate them, Taurasi kissed Augustus on the cheek, creating a video clip millions have viewed online.
"I had no idea it would catch fire like it did," Augustus said in a phone interview Saturday. "I guess I should've expected it when I woke up the next morning and saw ESPN had its little segment on sentimental smooches. But I didn't think it would reach this magnitude. It's great. I hope those 2.5 million views transfer over to the game.'
Though each joked about the incident - Augustus said they "talked about it and laughed it off" - the Mercury didn't find anything funny about the game's result. They trailed by as many as 31 before falling 85-62, creating a must-win situation for themselves in Game 2 at home.
Phoenix, which has lost all six meetings with Minnesota this season, shot 34.3 percent while the Lynx hit 53.1 percent from the field.
"That game's over," said Taurasi, who finished with a team-high 15 points. "Now we go home and try to win Game 2. We'll be ready."
Rookie Brittney Griner added 13 points and six boards.
"We understand what we have to do," Griner said. "We need our fans to be loud on Sunday like they have been all year. We'll make some adjustments and have fresher legs with a couple days off."
The Lynx were the league's highest-scoring team in the regular season at 82.8 points per game, while the Mercury gave up a WNBA-worst average of 80.3.
"Some nights, the ball doesn't go in the basket," Phoenix coach Russ Pennell said. "I was more disappointed in our defense than actually missing shots. I thought it was a combination of them guarding us well and us taking some quick shots that led to some fast breaks, and it was just kind of downhill from there."
In order to force a decisive Game 3, the Mercury will have to find a way to slow Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore. Whalen and Moore scored 20 points apiece while Augustus finished with 18.
Whalen, who joined Moore and Taurasi on the All-WNBA first team, scored 13 points while shooting 6 of 17 from the field in Minnesota's first-round sweep of Seattle.
"I thought she had a little more bounce in her step," coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Any time Lindsay struggles in a series you can bet she's going to come out the next series and really assert herself, and she did just that for us."
Pennell said his team can't be intimidated by the star power of the Lynx, especially with its season on the line.
"Sometimes you kind of get something in your head that maybe isn't true, and if you think about it long enough, you'll think it's true,' Pennell said. "I want to make sure they understand that Minnesota is beatable."
The Lynx have appeared in the last two WNBA finals. They beat the Mercury in the conference finals before winning the 2011 title, then fell to Indiana in last year's championship series.
Phoenix will need to win two straight to make its first finals appearance since winning the 2009 title.
WNBA HEAD TO HEAD
Sep 26, 2013 Score ATS Results
PHO 62 Under: 147
MIN « 85 Cover: 15.5
Jul 24, 2013 Score ATS Results
PHO 69 Cover: 3.5
MIN « 81 Under: 150
Jul 21, 2013 Score ATS Results
MIN « 82 Under: 159
PHO 77 Cover: 2
Jul 7, 2013 Score ATS Results
PHO 59 Under: 150
MIN « 91 Cover: 25.5
Jun 19, 2013 Score ATS Results
MIN « 80 Cover: 7.5
PHO 69 Under: 149
Jun 6, 2013 Score ATS Results
PHO 79 Over: 178
MIN « 99 Cover: 9.5