Lynx clinch top playoff spot

Published 3:20 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SEATTLE — The Minnesota Lynx are getting familiar with winning Western Conference titles.

Maya Moore scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen added 19 to help the Lynx clinch their third consecutive Western Conference title with a 73-60 victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.

“I told the team what they do is really hard but they make it look easy,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.

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Monica Wright added 14 points for Minnesota (25-7), which won its seventh straight game.

The two teams will face each other again next week in the best-of-three first-round series since Seattle already had clinched the fourth and final seed.

For the Lynx, winning the conference title is just the first step toward a bigger goal of winning the WNBA championship.

“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Moore said. “At the beginning of the year that was one of our goals in the bigger picture of winning the championship you’ve got to capture your conference.

“Despite the adversity and doubts and everything from the outside, we stayed connected and focused and accomplished a really hard task.”

Moore hit 7 of 10 shots from the field and Whalen 7 of 9. The Lynx pulled away from Seattle with a 23-14 run in the second quarter.

The Lynx beat Seattle in the first round last year. They won the WNBA title in 2011.

“It’s a good feeling,” Whalen said about the conference title. “We can enjoy tonight and then get ready for our next game. The West has great teams with a lot of talent so it’s a good accomplishment and we’ll just continue to try to get better.”

Minnesota wants to avoid coming up short of the title this year after losing last season to Indiana in the finals.

“As we’re getting back to that part of the season, we’re having flashbacks of those feelings of not getting done what we know we needed to get done,” Moore said. “It will be fuel for every game that comes.”

Tanisha Wright led Seattle (15-17) with 14 points. Tina Thompson had just five points and shot 2 of 8 from the field.

Minnesota has won 11 of the past 13 games against the Storm, including a 4-0 sweep this year. The Lynx last swept Seattle in a regular-season series in 2001.

But now Minnesota is a different team.

“They’re obviously individually talented,” Reeve said. “The part I’m most proud of is I have a group that there is tremendous buy-in into how good each other is, not how good I am, but I enjoy your success.

“In pro sports, sometimes that’s one of the hardest things to do. For me every day when I go into work with these guys I’m having the time of my coaching life to be able to be around this. I enjoy watching them and being in the trenches with them. They deserve the success they have had this year.”

Whalen scored 17 points and Moore 10 to help the Lynx to a 40-28 halftime lead. Whalen scored four during a 10-0 run late in the second quarter to give the Lynx an 18-point lead. They led by 24 early in the fourth quarter.

“At this point they’re the best team in the league,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “They’ve proven that. They present a huge challenge. But I like our team and I like what we can do. I like our upside and we’re going to bring that upside out.”

Seattle starting point guard Temeka Johnson missed the game with a heel injury and is considered day to day. She averages 10.4 points and four assists per game.

The Lynx beat Seattle 75-60 on Saturday and 97-74 on Aug. 31. Both teams have two regular-season games left.