Maya Moore's 23 points helped the Minnesota Lynx lead for the entire game in the WNBA Finals opener.
Maya Moore's 23 points helped the Minnesota Lynx lead for the entire game in the WNBA Finals opener.
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A disappointing experience last year showed the Minnesota Lynx the danger of a loss at home to open the WNBA Finals.

This time, the Lynx left no doubt about who is in early control of the series with an 84-59 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 on Sunday night.

Maya Moore had 23 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter to fuel a strong start.

"I think we're setting ourselves up for success," said Monica Wright, who contributed 20 points off the bench and teamed with Rebekkah Brunson to fluster league scoring leader Angel McCoughtry into 6-for-24 shooting for 17 points plus five turnovers.

Moore shot 10 for 16 from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds, and Seimone Augustus scored 19 points. The Lynx led the entire game and stymied the Dream into 0-for-15 shooting from 3-point range.

"People will doubt us already, but that's OK. We'll be back for a dogfight on Tuesday," McCoughtry said. "Everybody has cold days. This is a cold day."

Aneika Henry added 14 points, but Jasmine Thomas shot 3-for-15 from the floor. The Dream fell to 0-7 in the finals since 2010. They were swept by Seattle in 2010 and the Lynx in 2011.

Game 2 is in Minnesota again on Tuesday night, with the best-of-five matchup shifting to Georgia for Game 3.

Their four-game loss to Indiana in the finals last season not forgotten, the Lynx have played with even more of an edge this season, welcoming the tenacity, strength and slick passing ability of center Janel McCarville.

The Lynx went on a 15-0 run in the second quarter to pull away, with five players scoring during the spurt.

McCoughtry started the third quarter by clanking a 3-pointer off the rim. Then she had a fast-break layup stolen by Whalen on the next possession, her complaint to the officials for a foul call ignored. A little later in that period, McCarville leveled McCoughtry with a jarring screen. Then she peeled off, caught a pass and swished a jump shot for a 48-31 lead. The players ran by as McCoughtry sat on the court, still dazed from the collision.

Then right before the buzzer at the end of the quarter, Augustus hit a 3-pointer to push the advantage to 68-43. She pivoted and pumped her fist in celebration.

McCarville had seven points, five rebounds and four assists while fighting through a bad back.

Moore had 27 points in the clinching game of the Western Conference finals over Phoenix and has 109 points in five playoff games this year. The Lynx improved to 26-0 this year when outshooting their opponent and 26-1 when giving up less than 80 points.

The streaky Dream brought the lowest regular season winning percentage of any team to reach the WNBA Finals, their 10-1 start having disappeared during a slew of injuries. After losing nine of 12 games including their playoff opener to Washington, they reeled off four straight wins to get here.

But the Lynx are quite the formidable opponent, as evidenced by that decisive third quarter.

"We don't want to ever relax. The work that we do in the first half, we want to make sure that that means something, and so in order to protect what we just did we have to go out and play just as well or better in the second to build momentum," Moore said. "This is a long series, and every second that we give them life is a memory that they take into Game 2."

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.