- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
- 0 Shares
Who could blame Seimone Augustus if her lasting memory from the 2012 WNBA Finals put her on a slow burn for the past 12 months?
The Indiana Fever closed out the four-game series against Minnesota last season with an 87-78 win in Indianapolis, a game in which Augustus was 3-for-21 from the floor.
In fact, in the final two games of the series, both Minnesota losses, the Olympian, All-Star and 2011 Finals MVP was a combined 6-for-30 from the field.
So if, heading into what could be a deciding Game 3 of the 2013 championship series against Atlanta, Augustus is wading in a particularly deep well of motivation, that would hardly be a surprise.
"You never want to end a season like that, especially after the kind of season we had," Augustus said of 2012. "The focus, this year, was that we let one go and let it slip through our hands. We wanted to come in and be prepared to do what we wanted to do."
So far that's exactly how it has gone down, with the Lynx earning a pair of 25-point home victories to take what might prove to be an insurmountable lead in the best-of-five series against the Dream.
And Augustus has had a big hand in both wins, scoring 19 points in Game 1 and following up with a game-high 20 points in Game 2.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said she felt worse for Augustus after last year's Finals than perhaps the All-Star herself. And Reeve took exception to the blame that was directed at Augustus, who has been with the Minnesota organization the entirety of her WNBA career after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2006.
"To be Seimone Augustus, to give so much to this organization and get us a championship in 2011 like she did, then the very next year, when Seimone struggles in our final game … for us to have to hear some of the criticisms that she took, I was very defensive of Seimone," Reeve said.
For her part, Reeve fielded questions about why she didn't bench Augustus sooner. And she bristled.
"As a coach, I know that without Seimone we are not in the Finals and I'm not turning my back on her in the Finals," Reeve said. "I always believe that she could go 0-for-20 and I [still] want her to take the shot at the end of the game."
For Augustus, there was a period of mental recovery, but no regrets.
"I gave everything I had and when I finished that series, I was on 'E,'" Augustus said, meaning her energy had been drained. "When I got overseas, I couldn't practice for a few days because I didn't have anything left in the tank. If that is what happens, you can live with it."
Maya Moore said she knows Augustus "wasn't satisfied" with last year's ending.
"She was the first one to send out a mass text talking about next year and redemption and all the things we can do next year," Moore said. "She definitely remembers it."
And this season has been a long run of same old Seimone.
She is averaging better than 18 points a game during the postseason, put up 22 points in the deciding game of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix and then followed up with big performances in back-to-back Finals games.
Augustus has taken something of a back seat this season in terms of spotlight as Moore asserted herself with an MVP-caliber season. But she is still, without a doubt, the heart of the Lynx franchise, the player whom Moore says taught her about poise and playing the game on your own terms.
"More than anything, I'm happy for Maya. It's like watching a little sister grow up," Augustus said. "This team is all about not worrying about who gets the credit, but what we do together at the end of the day."
After all. Augustus can remember back to the days when reaching the Finals was a goal yet to be attained.
"I'm honored to have gone through that process," Augustus said, "so I cherish these opportunities."
One game from another title.
14dBonnie D. Ford