Lynx sweep Phoenix, reach WNBA Finals third year in a row

  • Article by: MARK HELLER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2013 - 6:52 AM

Maya Moore scored 27 points and Seimone Augustus added 21 as the Lynx advanced to the WNBA championship series against Atlanta.

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– Minnesota’s own “Big Three” kissed Phoenix goodbye.

The Lynx’s triple threat of Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and defense closed out the Mercury in the Western Conference finals, winning 72-65 Sunday before an announced crowd of 8,020 at US Airways Center.

A couple days after the Augustus-Diana Taurasi cheek smooch during Game 1 drew national attention, Minnesota’s play turned the talk back to basketball, specifically its quest to win a second championship in three years.

The Lynx are headed to the WNBA Finals for a third consecutive season — a feat most recently matched by Detroit from 2006-2008 and by Houston teams early in the league’s existence.

The Atlanta Dream knocked out Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals earlier Sunday. Game 1 of the best-of-five series will be Sunday at Target Center. Minnesota split its two regular-season matchups against Atlanta, winning 94-72 on July 9 and losing 88-75 on Aug. 20.

The clinching victory left the Lynx 4-0 this postseason. It came despite a 1-for-12 shooting day from Lindsay Whalen (she did have four rebounds and seven assists). The Lynx also missed 12 free throws and were outrebounded 43-35.

“I would have said we would get blown out,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, an assistant on those Detroit teams in the mid-to-late-2000s, said in response to the poor offensive numbers.

But Phoenix shot 38 percent from the floor, including 2-for-21 from behind the arc. The Lynx withstood a high-energy first quarter by the Mercury, took a 38-35 lead at halftime, stretched it to 53-45 after three quarters, and a jump shot by Augustus gave the Lynx a 68-56 lead with 3 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game.

“It has a lot to do with the makeup and personalities of this team,” Augustus said of the team’s third consecutive finals berth. “A lot of us have sacrificed a lot — I had to become a defensive player. Those factors kind of make it a blessing. It’s not easy at all, especially with all the new players coming in [to the league], new coaches. Every year it’s tougher.”

Led by Taurasi, the Mercury pulled within 69-65 on a putback by Candice Dupree with 37 seconds left in regulation, but Whalen hit a free throw, Taurasi missed a driving layup in traffic, and Augustus hit a free throw to bring the lead back to 71-65.

And when Janel McCarville screamed with excitement inside the Lynx huddle about being a conference champion for the first time in her WNBA career, even veterans who’ve been to the finals a few times couldn’t help but enjoy themselves.

“I thought they played awfully well, and, honestly, in my assessment — for whatever that means — I feel like they’re the best team in the WNBA” Mercury interim coach Russ Pennell said.

Moore and Augustus were a combined 20-for-33 shooting, and McCarville (five rebounds, five assists) and Rebekkah Brunson (14 rebounds) were key factors in negating the Mercury post players for a second consecutive game.

Taurasi scored 21 points but needed 21 shots to get there.

“Each year is its own journey,” Moore said. “... We have some new faces that haven’t had the experience that our leaders have. Some of us middle-aged players, three, four, five years, it’s really exciting to feel that energy from some of them who haven’t been at this stage yet. It’s refreshing. It’s fun for all of us.”

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    Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus lead the Lynx to a third straight berth in the WNBA finals

  • Minnesota's Rebekkah Brunson tries to block a shot by Phoenix Mercury's DeWanna Bonner during Sunday's Western Conference Finals game.

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 49 3rd Qtr 3:43
Chicago 72
Golden State 40 2nd Qtr 5:30
Milwaukee 30
Oklahoma City 26 1st Qtr 2:19
Utah 17
Denver 9:00 PM
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 3rd Prd 7:22
Montreal 2
Ottawa 3 3rd Prd 4:39
Toronto 2
Los Angeles 1 2nd Prd 4:02
Minnesota 2
Columbus 2 2nd Prd 1:40
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 5:16
Colorado 2
Dallas 9:00 PM
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 71 2nd Half 0:13
Notre Dame 27 1st Half 1:34
Kentucky 27
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 2nd Half 8:00
Columbus 1
Portland 0 2nd Half 25:00
Vancouver FC 1
Colorado 0 2nd Half
Houston 0
Seattle 0 2nd Half
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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