PHOENIX (AP) — The season-long rivalry between the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury comes down to one final game.
The teams meet Tuesday night with the winner earning a berth in the WNBA Finals.
Minnesota rallied to beat the Mercury 82-77 on Sunday to force a Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. The series shifts to Phoenix, where the Mercury are 16-1 this season and winners of 15 in a row.
Still, the Game 2 triumph left the Lynx optimistic.
“We’re very hungry and we’re in a good position now,” Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus said. “At this point everything is laid out on the table. 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.”
Phoenix has not lost consecutive games all season. And Phoenix has won four of six games against the Lynx this year.
“Everyone is disappointed, but we knew it’s going to be a tough series going in,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “These are the two best teams in the WNBA. They are the defending champions. We have an opportunity to go back to Arizona and have the ‘X factor’ (home crowd) there to support us. And it’s our home court so we need to go in there with confidence and shake off the things we didn’t do well.”
On Sunday, the Mercury started well but faltered at the end. After trailing by as many as 13, Minnesota rallied in the fourth quarter. Phoenix led 62-56 going into the final period, but Maya Moore scored 13 of her 32 points in that final 10 minutes and the Lynx broke a 75-75 tie with 23 seconds left to win.
“I think it’s going to be how our stars play and how the ‘X factors’ in the game perform,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We still have some more work to do and we’re ready for the gates to open for us. It would be nice to get off to a better start in Game 3 as well, and have a better first quarter.”
Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi said her team played well for 3 1-2 quarters Sunday.
“I thought our energy was fine throughout the whole game even when they were playing well,” Taurasi said. “We stayed in it till the end of the game and they made it difficult for us at the end. But I thought we played a good game.”
Phoenix also jumped to a big lead in Game 1, but never faltered in an 85-71 victory.
Moore, the WNBA MVP, was held to nine points in Game 1. But on Sunday, especially in the fourth quarter, she was the catalyst that pushed the Lynx to the win.
“She had the mindset that she’s the best player in the league and nobody can stop her,” Reeve said. “I thought she said, ‘I’m a great player and I’m going to go play and have fun.’ That’s what I thought she did.”
Moore said the team just wasn’t going to fold.
“We just keep believing, keep believing that we’re going to make the next play,” she said. “When we get our stops like we did in the last few minutes, we get a little pep in our steps. We have no doubt that if we put ourselves in good position, good things are going to happen for us.”
Phoenix has won four of six games against the Lynx this season.
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