On Sunday in Phoenix, the Lynx won a one-point game and the Phoenix Mercury screamed foul. Well, actually, the Mercury screamed no foul, and Monday the WNBA agreed, saying the call that led to the game-winning point was wrong.
But nothing, really, has changed.
The Lynx are still headed to their fourth league finals in five years, the Mercury’s season is still over.
The controversy began when Sunday’s Game 2 was tied at 70 with 5.4 seconds left, the Lynx trying to close out the best-of-three series. The Mercury’s Noelle Quinn directed her inbounds pass to 6-8 center Brittney Griner. Lynx star Maya Moore deflected that pass, gained control of the ball, began heading upcourt, and official Amy Bonner blew the whistle with 1.5 seconds left.
Bonner called Quinn for a foul. Moore went to the line and hit a free throw — her 40th point — to win the game.
The controversy came fast and — in Phoenix’s case — furious.
“That call, in all likelihood, is going to end the Phoenix Mercury’s season,” ESPN play-by-play man Ryan Ruocco said. “And boy is that an aggressive whistle at that moment.’’
His on-air partner, Rebecca Lobo, agreed, saying, “I am stunned that a whistle was blown.’’
And that was just the start of it. Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said it wasn’t a foul. “I mean, are you kidding me?’’ she said. “Number one, it wasn’t a foul. So to make that big a [call], that’s…. I don’t know. That’s just frustrating.’’
In the Mercury locker room, Griner was quoted by Phoenix media calling the call “horrible.’’ Quinn, reportedly in tears, said, “I didn’t touch her.’’
Monday the league officially agreed in a news release, quoting Renee Brown, the league’s chief of basketball operations and player relations:
“After reviewing postgame video and interviewing last night’s game officials, we have determined a foul should not have been called on Quinn for contact on Moore while Moore was attempting to advance the ball.’’
Phoenix officials said they would not comment on the statement. Reached Monday, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was reluctant to comment as well.
“It was textbook Maya making a great hustle play, getting the deflection, getting the ball,” Reeve said.
Reeve said that, from her perspective, it appeared not one but two officials were ready to make a foul call and that the steal did create player contact. “I understand the position the officials were in,” Reeve said. “It’s a bang-bang play. A player gets the ball and is trying to get out of there, to get a shot at the buzzer. There is a defender that was out of position from the turnover. … I saw what they saw.’’
The bottom line is the Lynx are looking at a berth in the finals, which begin Sunday against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Indiana and New York. The Mercury is left seeing red. And a rivalry that is already considered perhaps the best in the league — the teams have faced each other in the conference finals three straight seasons and in four of the past five years — will only grow more intense.