By VIN A. CHERWOO, AP Sports Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Minnesota got off to a slow start over the first 15 minutes against the New York Liberty. Then the Lynx showed why they're the defending champions.
Seimone Augustus scored 22 points and the Lynx cruised to a 80-62 victory over the Liberty on Tuesday night. Maya Moore had 15 points, Rebekkah Brunson scored 14 and Taj McWilliams-Franklin added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
With the score tied at 29 midway through the second quarter, Minnesota (2-0) took control with a 17-4 run that lasted into the start of the third. The Liberty pulled within eight in the final minute of the period, but the Lynx took a double-digit lead into to fourth and New York got no closer than 10 again.
"We just had to pick it up," Augustus said. "We felt really sloppy. We weren't executing as good as we should have, we weren't really dictating on the defensive end. ... They got a lot of easy baskets, got the ball where they wanted it to go. Most importantly, we want to get the easy shots."
Even with the sluggish start, Minnesta shot 60 percent (18 for 30) from the field in the first half and finished at 52 percent (32 for 62).
"It felt good, I didn't know it was that good," Augustus said of the Lynx's first-half shooting. "Being paitent on offense, making the extra pass. ... Their defense is so intense, they try to keep you on one side of the court."
Cappie Pondexter scored 15 points on 6-for-23 shooting, including 1 for 7 on 3-pointers, to lead the Liberty (0-3) Essence Carson added 13 points and Kia Vaughn grabbed 11 rebounds. New York shot 34 percent (25 for 74), including 5 for 21 from beyond the arc.
"We are figuring it all out," Pondexter said. "I do not want to go into a game and shoot 23 times. That is not my game. ... I think going into Atlanta (on Friday) we have to pound the ball inside. We have a lot of key big players. We need to make an impact inside. That way we can get an open shot and not make it hard for the perimeter."
After trailing 46-33 early in the third quarter, Nicole Powell's 3 -- attempting a pass for an alley-oop that swished in the basket instead -- pulled the Liberty within eight with about 7 minutes remaining. However, the Lynx scored the next six points and took a 52-38 lead on Augustus' free throw for a technical on Powell with 4:48 to go in the period.
The Liberty made a run and cut it to 58-50 on Pondexter's 3 with 20 seconds left in the third. But the Lynx came back with four points in the final 2 seconds of the quarter. After McWilliams-Franklin made two free throws to give Minnesota a 10-point lead, Plenette Pierson overthrew Leilani Mitchell on a long inbounds pass that went out at the other end of the court without time running down.
On the Lynx's ensuing inbounds under the Liberty basket, Brunson's tip went off the backboard and Moore grabbed it and layed it up as the buzzer sounded.
"At times, I saw us play well defensively, but we are still struggling with maintaining a good cohesive movement," New York coach John Whisenant said. "We had difficulty maintaining defensive intensity and stopping the break. We gave up way too many points that way."
Minnesota scored six consecutive points to take a 68-52 lead on Augustus' jumper with 5 1/2 minutes remaining. Her jumper with just under 2 minutes to go made it 76-56, the Lynx's biggest lead of the game.
Despite the easy win, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve still found something she didn't like in the stats -- the Liberty got 14 offensive rebounds.
"We're not where we want to be," she said. "Fourteen offensive rebounds is not the trademark of our team. We certainly had some good moments, but we like to be talking about a win and saying we have to get better, rather than losing and saying we heave to get better. We still have a long way to go."
Brunson got the Lynx started on their big run with a jumper to put the Lynx ahead with 4:51 to go in the second quarter, and her layup layup made it 37-29 just 2 minutes later.
Pondexter and Mitchell made baskets about a minute apart to pull New York within four.
However, Minnesota scored the next seven points to take a 44-33 lead at the break. Augustus gave the Lynx their double-digit lead with her layup on a pass from Moore under the basket on a 2-on-1 fastbreak with 22 seconds remaining in the half.
"Once we got the ball moving a little big ... started play off our defense, getting out and running and creating outnumbered situations, things got a little bit easier for us," Reeve said.
Whalen's layup extended the lead to 13 less than 30 seconds into the third quarter.