Lynx qualify for 3rd straight finals

Published 2:22 am Monday, September 30, 2013

Minn. sweeps Phoenix with 7-point win

PHOENIX — Minnesota is headed back to a familiar place — the WNBA finals.

Maya Moore scored 27 points, Seimone Augustus had 22, and the Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury 72-65 Sunday to advance with a sweep in the best-of-three WNBA Western Conference finals. It’s the third straight season that Minnesota has reached the championship round.

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“It’s really fun but it’s still not the ultimate prize,” said Moore, who is averaging 21.5 points in the playoffs. “We definitely appreciate where we are, we’re going to enjoy it for a couple of days but it’s still the same focus, the same determination, I think even more so than year one.”

Minnesota will open the finals on Oct. 6 at home against Atlanta, which completed its sweep of Indiana earlier Sunday. It’s a rematch of the 2011 championship in which the Lynx swept Atlanta in three games.

Diana Taurasi had 21 points for Phoenix, but was 6 of 21 from the field. Candice Dupree added 17 points, while No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner was held to six points and 10 rebounds.

Minnesota beat Phoenix 85-62 in Game 1 on Thursday.

“I know I had a tough task with guarding Diana Taurasi, and we kind of alternated defenders on her, just to give her a mix,” said Augustus. “But the team bought into the defensive scheme that we wanted to try apply for this series and for this game. We created a lot of havoc on that end.”

Phoenix committed 13 turnovers, leading to 12 Lynx points and never seemed to get its offense flowing, shooting just 37 percent from the field.

“That is obviously the goal,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “We pegged a few things after game one that we thought we needed to do better, that we thought Phoenix would identify and go at us in that area.”

Taurasi said the Mercury offense suffered particularly in the third quarter, when Phoenix erased the deficit but never got the lead.

“They didn’t do anything different, sometimes it comes down to making shots, making sure you are making the right plays,” Taurasi said. “Today, as a group, we didn’t make enough of those plays to get quality shots and that hurt us.”

Minnesota led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but Taurasi hit a 3-pointer and another basket to cut the lead to 69-63 with 1:24 remaining. Dupree got loose for a layup with 33 seconds left to get Phoenix within 69-65.

“I thought what we did was we settled for the easy things,” said coach Russ Pennell, who went 9-4 in the regular season after taking over for the fired Corey Gaines and then 2-3 in the playoffs. “Again, maybe that’s their defense doing it, but we didn’t have any problem moving the ball, we didn’t have a problem getting to our spots. We shot the ball incredibly poor, but I think a lot of that was we took ill-advised shots.”

The Lynx, who won eight of nine at the end of regular season, have won all four of their playoff games in the postseason, winning by an average of 12 points a game.

Minnesota won all seven meetings with the Mercury this year and has beaten Phoenix 14 straight times dating to 2011.

The Lynx advanced despite missing 12 free throws and the Mercury holding Lindsay Whalen to three points on 1-for-12 shooting. Whalen had 20 points in Game 1.

Minnesota ran off seven straight points after Phoenix had tied it 41-all with 7:45 left in the third quarter and went into the final period with a 53-45 lead.

Griner, after hitting two quick shots in the first two minutes, was held to 3-of-6 shooting in 32 minutes.

The Mercury made a concerted effort on the glass, starting the game by outrebounding Minnesota 8-1 in the first five minutes and grabbing an early 15-9 lead. Phoenix led 21-19 after the first quarter.

Minnesota scored the first nine points of the second quarter and opened up a 38-29 advantage after Augustus hit a 3 with 1:46 remaining. But Dupree scored the last four points for Phoenix and the Mercury got within 38-35 at the break. Augustus had 14 points and Moore 13 for Minnesota in the first half.