Lynx 69, Mercury 66
America West Arena (Phoenix)
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Tamika Williams led the Lynx with seven rebounds at Phoenix.
Barry Gossage, WNBAE/Getty Images
With the win, Minnesota clinches its first-ever playoff appearance
. The Lynx take sole possession of third place in the Western Conference playoff race, 2.5 games behind Houston and 0.5 ahead of Sacramento. Minnesota's "magic number" for clinching the third playoff spot in the West is now two, meaning any combination of two Minnesota wins and Sacramento losses guarantees the third seed.
The Lynx also clinched their first-ever winning season with the victory. Minnesota's previous best finish was 15-17 in both 1999 and 2000. The Lynx have two games remaining: at Los Angeles on Thursday, and at home against Detroit on Saturday.
The win was Minnesota's third consecutive on the road, tying the franchise record
originally set June 8-17, 2000. The Lynx also tied the team single-season record for road victories (with one remaining), having gone 7-9 in both 1999 and 2000.
Including 22 points on Wednesday, the Lynx bench is averaging 22.8 points per game over the last four games, after chipping in just 8.8 ppg in the previous 15 games. Sheri Sam
has averaged 13.0 ppg since moving to a reserve role on Aug. 9.
The Lynx finished 13-3 against the four Western Conference teams trailing them in the standings; however, they're a combined 1-6 against Los Angeles (0-3) and Houston (1-3).
Trailing by 13 points (57-44), Phoenix went on a 17-4 run to tie the game 61-61 with 1:05 left in the game. After a layup by Lynx center Janell Burse
, Minnesota went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the last 30 seconds to secure the win.
Minnesota racked up a 35-24 rebounding advantage, the team's fifth double-digit margin this year. The Lynx have been outboarded in just five of their last 26 games.
The Lynx finish with a 3-1 record against Phoenix during 2003. The Mercury still lead the overall series 9-8
, including 6-3 in games played at America West Arena.
Burse scored 12 of Minnesota's first 14 points. She finished with 16 points, six rebounds, and three blocks including a block of Phoenix center Slobodanka Tuvic's three-point attempt with .2 seconds remaining and the Lynx holding a three-point lead.
Mercury guard Anna DeForge scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half. Deforge added four rebounds and one block.