Veteran, rookie launch Lynx to first WNBA Finals

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 26, 2011 - 7:16 AM

McWilliams-Franklin, Moore lead way in sweep of Mercury.

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PHOENIX - The league's rookie of the year and the oldest veteran joined forces Sunday, and together they made the Lynx unstoppable.

Maya Moore scored 21 points --hitting six of eight three-point shots -- as the Lynx dominated Phoenix 103-86 to win their best-of-three Western Conference final series in two games.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the Lynx's 40-year-old center, matched Moore's 21 points. Hers came mostly inside, on short lefthanded hooks or bank shots.

So in a season of firsts, the Lynx have another. They are in the WNBA Finals, a best-of-five series starting next Sunday at Target Center.

Their opponent will either be Atlanta or Indiana. Their Eastern Conference series is tied 1-1 after the Dream's 94-77 home victory over the Fever on Sunday. The deciding game will be Tuesday in Indiana.

"The feeling right now is satisfying but not complete," said McWilliams-Franklin, who topped her season high of 18 points. "It is like you sit down to a great dinner. You eat your dinner, you feel great, but you still want that dessert.

"And you want that dessert to be the best dessert ever ... and the finals is going to be that dessert for me."

McWilliams-Franklin, whose 52 playoff games tie her for third in league history, was a starter for Detroit on the Shock's WNBA championship team in 2008. She signed with the Lynx as a free agent in February. On Sunday, she was 8-for-14 from the field and had seven assists and six rebounds.

"Taj killed us from the beginning," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "She may be slow in step-throughs and put-backs, but she hit them."

Said McWilliams-Franklin: "I take advantage of my slowness, as funny as it [sounds]. DeWanna Bonner [of Phoenix] is an athletic, lean, tall post player.

"There is no way I am going to get around her, so there is something to be said for those slow moves that lull you to sleep. You think I am doing one thing and I do something else."

Moore, obviously, had never participated in the WNBA playoffs before, but she was the star on two NCAA championship teams at Connecticut. She knows the playoff game.

"We made some big, back-breaking plays at some great times to really steal the home-court advantage" from the Mercury, Moore said.

Two second-half Lynx possessions particularly stand out.

With three minutes left in the third quarter, Seimone Augustus of the Lynx scored on a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Rebekkah Brunson grabbed the offensive rebound. Seconds later, Candice Wiggins made a three-pointer to give the Lynx a 65-59 lead.

Moore's fifth three-pointer -- with 3:48 left to play -- and a free throw on the same play gave the Lynx an 89-77 lead and started what proved to be a game-clinching 8-0 run.

"I really feed off my team, and when we feel good as a unit, everybody's offensive game gets a little pep," Moore said.

There was so much energy among the visitors that six Lynx finished in double figures -- the five starters as well as reserve post Jessica Adair, with 10 points.

Phoenix won WNBA titles in 2007 and 2009 and was 12-3 in elimination games, but the Mercury couldn't keep up as the Lynx shot 54.2 percent from the field.

Diana Taurasi and Bonner each had 22 points and Candice Dupree 18 for Phoenix.

"Every time we hit a rough patch, we came together as a team, which got us to this point," Taurasi said. "Tonight we just didn't have enough to get over the biggest hump, which is Minnesota."

McWilliams-Franklin, who played a game-high 38 minutes, said she is glad there will be time to rest a little before the Lynx's next game against whoever prevails in the East.

"We don't have a preference," McWilliams-Franklin said. "We are just happy to be in the finals. Bring on Atlanta, bring on Indiana."

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