The Minnesota Lynx are headed back to the WNBA Finals for the sixth time in seven seasons after defeating the Mystics 81-70 in our nation’s capitol on Sunday afternoon. Minnesota ended Washington’s season behind a 17 point, 14 rebound game from Sylvia Fowles and 21 impressive points from Maya Moore.
The opening half of this game didn’t quite go as planned for the Lynx. They struggled to defend without fouling and racked up the turnovers which allowed a desperate Mystics team to keep the game close. Washington lived at the free throw line in the first half and used a 15-2 run midway through the second quarter to take a seven point lead, their largest of the game. Cheryl Reeve called timeout, and the Lynx capped the half on a 6-0 run to get the game within a point headed into the locker room. That run continued in the second half as Minnesota scored the first 11 points of the third quarter. This crucial juncture in the game saw the Lynx turn a 39-32 deficit into a 49-39 lead that they would not relinquish.
Moore was fantastic in this game with 21 points and five assists on 8-18 shooting including 3-6 from three. In the first half while the team struggled to score, Moore was always there to give the team timely baskets and playmaking. For the majority of their season, the Lynx didn’t need her to shoulder a huge burden offensively, that was the job of Fowles, the league MVP. But on Sunday with their offense unable to find Fowles in the post, Moore took it upon herself to put the ball in the hoop which she did efficiently from all over the court.
The Lynx defense was masterful in the second half holding Washington to only 31 points. For the second game in a row this was in part caused by Minnesota’s ability to make shots, which allowed them to set up their defense. With Emma Meesseman continuing to be ice-cold shooting the ball in this series, the Lynx loaded up on Washington’s lone scoring threats Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver. Rebekkah Brunson was instrumental in taking away Delle Donne. Brunson was able to “face guard” her for most of the second half and made it difficult for her to catch the ball, let alone shoot it.
Lindsay Whalen put the team on her back yet again in the fourth quarter. Whalen scored all eight of her points and emotionally fueled a 14-3 run midway through the quarter that put the game out of reach for Washington. There were doubts as to how well the Lynx would be able to re-integrate their starting point guard back into their system after she had missed the 12 games prior to this series. Those doubts have been quieted by her stellar play in three straight Lynx victories.
The WNBA Finals are now set as the Los Angeles Sparks also swept their semifinal opponent and will face the Lynx in a rematch of the 2016 Finals. The Lynx and Sparks have been the two best teams all season and the series should live up to the hype. Minnesota will be out for revenge as they lost in heartbreaking fashion at Target Center a year ago.
-Washington still has moves to make before being considered contenders next season. Yes their season was disjointed due to injuries, but even when fully healthy they seem to be missing the necessary depth to make a Finals run.
-The Lynx were incredible from long range in this series. They shot 26-50 (52%). If they can shoot the ball anywhere close to that well in the Finals they will be incredibly hard to beat.
-The upcoming Lynx/Sparks Finals rematch is only the second ever in WNBA history. The other was Houston/New York in ‘99/’00.
THE WNBA FINALS! Game one is at Williams Arena on Sunday September 24th at 2:30pm. Go get your tickets now!