Lynx Rally Past Mercury, 82-77
by Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Associate
Minnesota could have easily folded Sunday against the Phoenix Mercury at Target Center, and for a while it looked like it might. It shot an abysmal 2-for-14 from the floor in the first quarter after it was thoroughly dominated in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Lynx players hung their heads during the brief break between quarters, and though players would never say it aloud, it looked like the Lynx were on their collective last breath.
Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, and Seimone Augustus wouldn’t let the team die that easy. That three-headed monster led Minnesota back and carried it back to an 82-77 win.
“It can be really demoralizing for a team when it’s missing shot after shot after shot,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We were able to hang in there and that’s a credit to our leadership. … We know that at this point in the season it’s about players making plays and stars being stars. That’s what we needed tonight.”
It started with Whalen, then Moore took over for a bit late in the game, and finally Augustus helped slam the door and assure there would be a Game 3 on Phoenix on Tuesday night.
Augustus hit a crucial jumper late in the fourth quarter to give her team a 78-75 lead it never relinquished. That came after the Lynx clawed their way back into the game, outscoring Phoenix by 11 points in the fourth quarter after trailing by as much as 13 points in the game.
“It's all or nothing,” Augustus said. “It’s our playoff lives on the line. We basically just had to lay it all out there. There is no tomorrow if we don't win. So at that point it was kind of full steam ahead, put our shoulders back, our chin up, and go get that win.”
Though it’ll get overshadowed in the victory, Whalen was crucial during what was a tough stretch for the team. She willed her team back into the game with a number of key plays in the second quarter to cut the lead to single digits by halftime.
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said she knew it was only a matter of time before the Lynx showed up in the series.
“They’re the defending champs,” Taurasi said. “We knew they weren’t just going to fold and being content with packing their bags and going home. It was a great effort from them and we expected that.”
“We just keep believing, keep believing that we're going to make the next play,” she said. “We have no doubt that if we put ourselves in good position, good things are going to happen for us.”
Though players were visibility ecstatic after the game, after the turn up died down, Moore and Augustus made it very clear that there is still business to be done out in Phoenix on Tuesday night.
“We're very hungry … and at this point everything is laid out on the table,” Augustus said. “We know their plays. We know the tricks they kind of put in. It's just a will to win and who wants it most.”
Moore was held under double digits for the first time all season in Game 1 and apparently didn’t like the feeling. She snapped off for 32 points in the win and scored 13 of those points in the fourth quarter. Moore finished 10-for-21 from the floor and also added 9 rebounds and 3 steals.
Highlight of the Game
Augustus curled around a screen and took a feed from Whalen before rising up. She rose up and knocked down the jumper and took the foul from DeWanna Bonner in the process. That ignited the Target Center crowd and gave the Lynx a 78-75 lead. It never trailed again.
The Numbers Game
“She made a lot of shots tonight and when she does that it’s pretty much impossible to guard her.”
-- Diana Taurasi on Maya Moore
Game 3. Minnesota and Phoenix will now tussle it a 40-minute game that will decide which team heads to the WNBA finals. That game will be in Phoenix on Tuesday night.