WASHINGTON – As coach Cheryl Reeve grew more animated with each uncharacteristic Lynx mistake, the home crowd grew more hopeful that its team could fight off elimination. The Mystics used turnovers, free throws and a 15-2 run to take a one-point halftime lead in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinal series.
But the Lynx absorbed the Mystics’ best shot and found another gear in the second half, winning 81-70 Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena to sweep the best-of-five semifinal series.
A smooth offensive set led to an open Seimone Augustus jumper that gave the Lynx the lead a few seconds into the third quarter, and the three-time champions never let it go.
The Lynx will face Los Angeles, which edged Phoenix 87-85 to also sweep its semifinal series, in their sixth WNBA Finals appearance in seven seasons. The series starts Sunday at Williams Arena.
“We’re one of the best teams on the offensive end as far as scoring the basketball, and that’s just a matter of not turning the ball over,” Augustus said. “We were giving them easy baskets because those are difficult situations for us to defend — them pushing the ball in transition.”
Early on, the game’s slow pace and physicality suited the Mystics, who had allowed Minnesota to make 79 of its 144 two-point field goal attempts while scoring 101 and 93 points in Games 1 and 2. On Sunday, the Lynx made 25 of their 50 shots from inside the arc. On the other end of the floor, Washington pulled down 10 offensive rebounds.
“We don’t look forward to these types of games, but that’s the beauty of Rebekkah and I,” league MVP Sylvia Fowles said. “What the Mystics brought this series just crashing the boards challenged us all three games. We definitely looked forward to the challenge and challenged ourselves to go out there and make sure we get it done.”
The Lynx had only 13 turnovers in the first two games of the series combined but had eight turnovers and 10 team fouls when Washington tied the score at 30 with a little over three minutes left in the second quarter. A Minnesota timeout did not stop the momentum as Washington flipped a 30-24 deficit into a 39-38 halftime lead.
Then Augustus scored 10 points in the first 3½ minutes of the third quarter as the Lynx built a 10-point lead with a 17-0 run that started before halftime. The Mystics fought back and held the lead in single digits until Augustus drained a three-pointer with less than six minutes left.
“Seimone, we asked her at halftime that we needed a little bit more and for her to get involved offensively,” Reeve said. “She took that to heart and made some shots.”
In the fourth quarter, the combination of Lindsay Whalen’s ballhandling, Brunson and Fowles’ rebounding, Augustus’ shooting, and Moore’s moments of offensive brilliance overpowered the Mystics.
Washington stayed close by forcing 13 turnovers and making 14 of its 15 free throws.
Moore led all scorers with 21 while Augustus was 8-for-12 to finish with 18. Fowles added 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“The luxury of our team is we can go to anyone at any given time,” Augustus said. “I had my moments, Whalen had her moments, Maya had her moments, and Sylvia finished it up in the paint.
“ If we can take care of the ball, it’s difficult for any team to defend us.”