The Minnesota Lynx ended the Phoenix Mercury’s season and advanced to the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season after a 72-65 win in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals Sunday at US Airways Center.
It was much closer than Thursday’s 85-62 Game One blowout in Minneapolis, as 20-point scorer Lindsay Whalen was held to three on 1-of-12 shooting, but her Olympic teammates Maya Moore (27 points) and Seimone Augustus (22) carried the team to a matchup with the Atlanta Dream, of which the Lynx swept in the 2011 Finals.
“We pegged a few things after Game One that we thought we needed to do better,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I thought we made everything really tough. They cleaned up their pick and roll defense.”
Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 21 points, but the team struggled shooting and was only 2-of-21 from long range.
“There’s probably a couple of things we could have done better,” Taurasi said. “Probably execute offensively, I think that hurt the most. Defensively we played well. They have people who can score the basketball, and when you have multiple players that can do that, they put you in a lot of positions where you ‘re always helping and chasing.”
The Mercury had an early six-point lead and Moore picked up two quick fouls. Phoenix was ahead 21-19 after the first quarter, but into the second, the Lynx opened on a nine-point run highlighted with a Moore three pointer. In the play of the game, Taurasi found a wide open DeWanna Bonner under the net with a no-look pass to bring the Mercury within three and a resulting Lynx timeout. Augustus sank a three to put the Lynx back in front by nine, but Phoenix recorded the final six points of the half, including the final four from Candice Dupree to chip it to 38-35, and rode the momentum of a Krystal Thomas block at the buzzer to the recess.
After Bonner tied it from the line, 41-41, at the 7:45 mark of the third, the Lynx ended the quarter on a 12-4 run. The lead never went over double digits until Moore scored with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Dupree brought the Mercury within four with 42 seconds on the clock before Minnesota won it from the line, where it struggled at 55 percent on the day.
“Every year is it’s own journey,” Moore said. “Personally, I am two years older and more experienced. We have some new faces that haven’t had the experience that our leaders have. It’s fun for all of us. Janel (McCarville) was in the huddle yelling, just being silly and excited.”
Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson led all players with 14 rebounds, including 13 on the defensive end, and Whalen had a game-high seven assists. Dupree had 17 points and seven rebounds, Bonner had 12 points, and Brittney Griner collected 10 rebounds in the final game of her rookie season.
“In my assessment, they’re the best team in the WNBA, after seeing them on film and up close and personal,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said. “I think they’re a quality team, they took us out of tons of stuff. We just didn’t find the open player or make the pass.”
Earlier in the day, the Dream completed its sweep of the defending champion Indiana Fever, advancing to its third Finals in the past four seasons. Angel McCoughtry scored 27 for the Dream, while Tamika Catchings had 24 for Indiana, which was at home.