Bring on Phoenix. The Lynx still are alive.
In a season of firsts, the Lynx accomplished perhaps their most significant numero uno in their 13-year history on Tuesday: They beat San Antonio 85-67 to win their first playoff series.
The Lynx won this best-of-three Western Conference semifinal matchup 2-1, but any celebrating has to be quick. The Lynx will play host to Phoenix on Thursday in the conference finals, another best-of-three series.
The Mercury eliminated defending league champion Seattle 77-75 on Monday to advance. The Lynx were 3-2 this season versus run-and-shoot Phoenix, loaded with scorers Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree. The Lynx have averaged 95.4 points, the Mercury 91.6 in their five meetings this season.
"We are going to be big-time challenged on the defensive end," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "We will be able to score against them. With Phoenix we will have to find a way to slow them down."
But at least the Lynx have a series to look forward to. In two previous playoff appearances, the Lynx lost to Los Angeles 2-1 in 2003 and to Seattle 2-0 in 2004.
This year the Lynx were fortunate to edge San Antonio 66-65 at home Friday but lost on the road 84-75 Sunday, meaning a third game was necessary.
And, as they have done so often, the Lynx dominated. In compiling the league's best regular-season record of 27-7 they won 17 games by double digits.
Both coaches said the Lynx's 18th double-digit victory could be attributed in large part to the improved play of the Lynx's two 6-2 post players, center Taj McWilliams-Franklin and forward Rebekkah Brunson.
Mama Taj, as teammates call her, had 16 points and Brunson nearly had a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Both were shackled offensively the first two games, combining for 16 points total.
"We both decided we did not do enough in Game 2 or in Game 1 to establish a post presence," Mama Taj said, "to have them have to help [inside] and give our guards some room to score.
"[Tonight] the guards were hitting us in great spots, hitting us on the rolls, looking for us on the pops. And [the shots] happened to go in."
McWilliams-Franklin was 6-for-10 from the field, Brunson four of nine. Brunson also made seven of eight free throws.
"Rebekkah was being extra aggressive, attacking every single post player at every moment," McWilliams-Franklin said. "Well played. That's the Rebekkah I know from overseas and Sacramento [her first WNBA team]."
San Antonio coach Dan Hughes called McWilliams-Franklin's and Brunson's scoring the difference in the game, and they both made an early impact.
The Silver Stars took an early 12-4 lead, opening their scoring with three-pointers from Becky Hammon and Jia Perkins.
But the Lynx responded with a 10-0 run to go ahead 14-12. McWilliams-Franklin had the first six points, Brunson the next four.
Early in the second quarter, the Lynx used a 17-0 run to take a 35-22 lead. Maya Moore had seven points and Seimone Augustus five in that stretch.
Augustus finished with 22 points and had eight rebounds and four assists. Moore had a nice stats line, too: 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"We didn't want to let you guys down, so we came together," said Moore, speaking to the announced crowd of 8,734 at midcourt in a postgame interview. "It's not over yet."
Sophia Young had 17 points and Hammon 15 for the underdog Silver Stars, who were 0-4 against the Lynx in the regular season. Phoenix has played the Lynx much tougher.
"The goal is not to just win a round," Reeve said, "there is a bigger prize in mind."
Now where's that Mercury scouting report?