Minnesota is headed back to a familiar place — the WNBA finals.
Maya Moore scored 27 points, Seimone Augustus had 22, and the Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury, 72-65, Sunday in Phoenix to advance with a sweep in the best-of-three WNBA Western Conference finals. It’s the third straight season that Minnesota has reached the championship round.
“It’s really fun but it’s still not the ultimate prize,” said Moore, who is averaging 21.5 points in the playoffs. “We definitely appreciate where we are, we’re going to enjoy it for a couple of days but it’s still the same focus, the same determination, I think even more so than year one.”
Minnesota will open the finals next Sunday at home against Atlanta, which completed its sweep of Indiana earlier Sunday. It’s a rematch of the 2011 championship in which the Lynx swept Atlanta in three games.
Diana Taurasi had 21 points for Phoenix, but on 6-of-21 shooting from the field. Candice Dupree added 17 points, while No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner was held to six points and 10 rebounds.
“I know I had a tough task with guarding Diana Taurasi, and we kind of alternated defenders on her, just to give her a mix,” said Augustus. “But the team bought into the defensive scheme that we wanted to try apply for this series and for this game. We created a lot of havoc on that end.”
Phoenix committed 13 turnovers, leading to 12 Lynx points and never seemed to get its offense flowing, shooting just 37 percent from the field.
Minnesota led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but Taurasi hit a 3-pointer and another basket to cut the lead to 69-63 with 1:24 remaining. Dupree got loose for a layup with 33 seconds left to get Phoenix within 69-65.
The Lynx, who won eight of nine at the end of the regular season, have won all four of their playoff games, winning by an average of 12 points a game.
Dream 67, at Fever 53: Angel McCoughtry powered Atlanta to its third Eastern Conference crown in four years, scoring 27 points in the Dream’s victory and series sweep over Indiana.
The short-handed Fever was trying to become the first franchise to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001-02. Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 24 points and six rebounds, but the Fever never got going offensively, shooting 28.1 percent. All-Star Shavonte Zellous was held to six points, nearly nine below her regular-season average.
McCoughtry scored 11 points in the third quarter to help the Dream break open a game they led 34-33 at halftime. Riding suffocating defense, Atlanta cruised from there.
Indiana started the year 1-7 before finishing 16-18 despite losing former All-Star Katie Douglas for most of the season.