PHOENIX (AP) — Having an off night offensively, Maya Moore still found a way to help her team win.
Moore was 3 of 12 from the floor when she hit a 3-pointer, stole an inbounds pass and made a layup in the final minute to lift the Minnesota Lynx to their sixth straight victory, an 82-77 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.
“I’m always trying to find a way to stay involved and help my team win,” Moore said. “I never give up, I don’t like to give up on my team and I could have easily just let it get to my head and gotten frustrated. But our team has done such a good job of picking each other up.”
Moore finished with 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting, Rebecca Brunson added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Seimone Augustus scored 15 points for the Lynx, who have won eight of their last nine. Minnesota hit four of six free throws in the final 19 seconds to secure the victory, the Lynx’ ninth straight against Phoenix, including all four this season.
“Tough, gritty, not hanging our heads when we got down double figures,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeves said. “We had been down previously and we weren’t able to recover from it in the past games, so I think we learned from those experiences.”
Diana Taurasi had 26 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Mercury, who led much of the game, and had a 64-59 advantage going into the final period and a 74-73 lead with 1:35 left.
“We just said that with five minutes to go we wanted to be in the game,” Augustus said. “Be able to put some stretches together where we consistently defended and then offensively we knew where we were going to be able to get shots where we wanted to.”
DeWanna Bonner added 23 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Mercury played their fourth straight game without No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner, who injured her left knee June 6 against Minnesota.
“We just didn’t have enough at the end,” Bonner said. “That’s where their veteran leadership comes in, they have a full roster. They can make a couple of subs and we can’t.”
After Bonner hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key with 2:03 left, Moore missed on a drive to the baseline. Taurasi then finished a fast break with a layup at the 1:35 mark to put the Mercury up 74-73.
Taurasi missed a 3-pointer with 1:07 left and Moore made her second 3-pointer of the game from the right corner to put Minnesota up for good.
“You make your own luck,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “They earned it. They are the No. 1 team.”
Gaines acknowledged that with only eight healthy players to work with – one signed to a seven-day contract on Sunday – his team was at a disadvantage and showed some fatigue late.
The teams traded turnovers and Taurasi was inbounding the ball with 37.9 seconds left when Moore stepped in front and went for an easy basket.
Minnesota’s only two losses since June 8 have been to Los Angeles.
After trailing by eight at the break, Minnesota got within 58-57 on Augustus’ 3-pointer with 3:14 left in the third quarter, but Bonner scored the Mercury’s final six points to give Phoenix a 64-59 advantage going into the fourth.
“We had to just hang in there,” Moore said. “Unfortunately we were not as comfortable getting into the flow of our offense at times, but in the second half we just fell into it, made shots and stayed active.”
Phoenix took advantage of Minnesota’s poor shooting in the first half to lead 44-36 at the break. The Lynx made just 40 percent from the field, including 2 of 10 from beyond the arc after making their first three shots of the half.
Seemingly sparked by a technical foul on Taurasi early in the second quarter, the Mercury opened up a 29-21 lead with 5:50 left in the half. Taurasi scored seven of her 13 first-half points during a 100-second stretch after getting the technical, her seventh of the season.
Phoenix led 18-17 after the first quarter, and held Moore, the league’s seventh-leading scorer, to three points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half.
Augustus had six points by halftime in her second game back after spraining her left ankle July 7 against Phoenix.
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