PHOENIX – To Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, Maya Moore appeared drained at times in the second half Sunday.
“Like a tired boxer,” Reeve said.
Moore still found a way to deliver the knockout punch.
Moore scored 40 points, and her steal and free throw with a 1.5 seconds left broke a tie for a 72-71 victory over Phoenix and a sweep of the WNBA Western Conference finals at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“Maya is relentless,” Reeve said.
Moore missed an off-balance, baseline jumper with nine seconds left, giving Phoenix the ball and, after a non-shooting foul, the Mercury called a timeout to set up a play for 6-8 Brittney Griner.
Moore was ready. She dropped into the passing lane, deflected the ball and was fouled during a scramble for the ball. She made one free throw and purposely missed the second, leading the Lynx to the WNBA Finals for the fourth time in five years.
“She’s very hard to play against,” Reeve said. “That was just money.”
The Lynx will play the winner of the New York-Indiana series, which will be decided Tuesday. If Indiana wins, the best-of-five finals will start at Target Center; if New York wins, the Liberty will host Game 1 on a date to be determined.
Moore made 13 of 29 field goal attempts, including four of 10 three-pointers, and had eight rebounds and four assists. It was her highest point total in a playoff game; her previous high was 33 on Sept. 18 against Los Angeles.
“It was one of those instances where you’re just playing until the last horn,” said Moore, who had 19 points in a 67-60 victory in the first game of this series at the Target Center on Thursday.
“We figure it was going inside to ‘B.G.’ I was just anticipating them passing the ball inside and just tried to get a deflection. It worked out. There was a scramble for the ball. I got fouled.”
The Mercury was not as sure.
“I mean, are you kidding me?” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “Number one, it wasn’t a foul. It’s just frustrating. Let the two best teams with the extra five minutes decide who wins the game. That was unfortunate.”
Moore’s steal and driving layup with 6:45 left gave the Lynx a 65-62 lead. Phoenix scored nine of the next 13 points before Moore hit two free throws to tie the score at 71 with 38.7 seconds left.
“That’s just a special player going off, and Maya can do that,” Brondello said.
“Most of the time I’m really not aware of what I am doing,” Moore said. “I’m just so locked into the moment. I’m not focused on ‘Oh, I got 40’ or ‘I got 30.’
“A lot of that happens off our team defense, so when we can lock in defensewise, most of the time I’m getting out on the break, which is where I love to be. When we can get out in transition, it really favors me offensively.”
Sylvia Fowles had eight points and 14 rebounds for the Lynx, whose victory stopped a streak of 12 wins by the home team in this matchup, including the playoffs.
Minnesota won WNBA titles in 2011 and 2013 in 3-0 sweeps over the East champion and lost to Indiana in 2012.
Phoenix won in 2014 with Finals MVP Diana Taurasi, who skipped this season to rest at the request of her Russian team
Candice Dupree led a balanced Mercury attack with 16 points. Griner had 15 points, Monique Currie 14 and Bonner 13.
But the Lynx had Moore.