Web Editorial Associate
The defending WNBA Champions are officially back in the Finals.
Minnesota defeated the Phoenix Mercury in impressive fashion, 82-67 on Sunday afternoon, completing the Semi-Finals sweep and making their dreams of repeating that much more real.
The Lynx relied on their unrelenting defense to seal Game 3, forcing Phoenix to shoot 41 percent from the floor and commit 15 turnovers.
“I thought that everything we tried to do, which was just to be better than what we were defensively in the first two games that we played,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I thought we had pretty good focus and trying to get some things done. We understand that Phoenix’s schedule probably caught up with them or we were of the mindset that at some point we hoped maybe that could give us an edge. Nine out of 11 I think was on the road and we have a team that is fairly deep and we can kind of maybe throw some different things at them.”
Maya Moore was impressive for her third straight playoff game in-a-row, putting in a game-high 20 points, snatching six boards, and tallying three assists/steals.
Trailing 39-38 at halftime, the Lynx went on a 16-5 run to begin the 3rd quarter which ended up being the beginning of the end for the home team. The scoring outburst was led by Natasha Howard, who had her best performance of the series on Sunday afternoon, as she finished the game with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“We needed it, obviously it was a tough game for Syl (Sylvia Fowles) as far as staying on the floor, but when T (Natasha Howard) got her chances, T is just such an active screener that she creates offense for the team,” Reeve said. “She creates a flow and anytime she is on the floor, she is a very timely screener, she gets out of her screens very quickly and so if you’re a guard, I’ll tell you what, they love when she comes to screen for them because they are going to open for something good or they know she gets out so fast so she gives them another option and then I think her hustle plays. I can’t say enough about what she was doing on the glass, they were absolute back breakers and then her relentlessness.”
In her last game before retiring, veteran guard Penny Taylor didn’t have much going offensively, but was effective all game on the defensive side of the ball, tallying three steals and four rebounds.
“Right now I’m just really disappointed about this game and this series obviously,” Taylor remarked. “You never want to go out on a loss. I think when I can walk again and look back I’ll be very proud of my career and the things that I’ve achieved. Really all that’s ever married to me was winning and I’ve been able to do that here a few times, and I’ll never forget those teams and that feeling. I’ll always be proud of that.”
68: Including Sunday’s contest, Lindsay Whalen has started this many career playoff games, moving her past Tamika Catchings (67) for the most postseason starts in WNBA history.
9th: Marking Sunday’s game as a W, the Lynx have won this many consecutive games against Phoenix, including a perfect 6-0 record against Phoenix (regular season and playoffs combined) in 2016.
“Obviously disappointed with the result, but the better team won tonight, the series,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said. “They’ve been the best team all season long and they showed that. Obviously we had a little fatigue here, coming out of that third quarter and Maya Moore kind of took over and we got ourselves in a big hole. We just gave up too many points in the paint really with executing our schemes, and Howard was great off the bench too. Disappointing, but we’ll learn a lot from this season and we’ll be better moving forward.”
26.3: Minnesota did a great job all series forcing Phoenix to take difficult shots and not get any easy looks. That Champion-esque trend continued on Sunday as the Lynx forced the Mercury to make this low percentage of their 3-point attempts.
“Defensively we felt like we got better from the first game to the third game, but it was still a hard game, it was a tough game,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said. “They have great players all around making great plays. Coaches’ strategies, both Sandy and Cheryl’s, were great. You could see the adjustments each game we came out, but today it was just another day where we felt like we were playing great basketball on both ends of the floor.”
8: Out of the 34 field-goals that the Lynx tallied on Sunday afternoon, 21 of those baskets came from an assist. Minnesota is one of the best ball-sharing teams in the league and out-dished Phoenix by this many throughout Game 3.
Minnesota is officially in the Finals, but their opponent is yet to be determined. The Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks are headed to Game 4 on Tuesday night. Los Angeles leads the series 2-1, but the game on Tuesday will be held in Chicago, where the Sky came out victorious in Sunday’s matinee.