PHOENIX — High-scoring Maya Moore carried the Minnesota Lynx to the WNBA Finals with a great defensive play.
Maya Moore stole Noelle Quinn’s pass with 3 seconds left, was fouled and made a free throw with 1.5 seconds to go to give Minnesota a 72-71 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday and a two-game sweep in the Western Conference finals.
“You just keep playing until the last horn,” Moore said. “I was just anticipating them passing the ball inside and just tried to get a deflection. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all year, lead my team in deflections.”
Moore had career playoff-high 40 points to help Minnesota reach the title series for the fourth time in five seasons.
“Four times in five years in the Finals, it’s not easy for these players,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “especially when the expectation is every time they play, they should win the game.”
Minnesota, the league champion in 2011 and 2013, will face New York or Indiana in the best-of-five WNBA Finals. Indiana beat New York on Sunday to force a deciding third game in that series.
With the teams tied at 71, Moore blocked and controlled Quinn’s pass attempt to Brittney Griner. Moore was fouled by Quinn, made the first three throw and the Lynx rebounded the miss on the second as time ran out.
The Mercury protested the foul call and expressed displeasure after the game.
“It’s tough to end the series on a call 70 feet from the basket,” Mercury guard Monique Currie said.
Candice Dupree led the defending champion Mercury with 16 points, Brittney Griner added 15, and Currie had 14. Griner, the Mercury’s focal point on offense, did not score in the first and fourth quarters.
“What a great game, No. 1,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “Are you kidding me? It’s just frustrating. Let the two best teams decide with the extra five minutes who wins the game.”
Sylvia Fowles helped limit Griner defensively and had eight points and 14 rebounds. The Lynx outrebounded the Mercury 36-26.
Phoenix took a 71-69 lead on DeWanna Bonner’s jumper with 54.9 seconds to play, but Bonner, a key player on both ends for the Mercury, fouled out 16 seconds later with 13 points.