2014 was a season that saw the Phoenix Mercury find its identity and explode for the best regular season record in WNBA History (29-5). At the same time the defending Champion Minnesota Lynx fought through injuries and managed to maintain the high standards they have held themselves to during the past four seasons.
The playoffs saw both teams earning first round sweeps of their opponents, and set the stage for an incredibly intense playoff series between the rising Mercury and the defending Champion Lynx.
“It's a battle of wills and who's going to execute better. We were going to keep playing hard and doing what we were doing, and stay disciplined.”
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore
The first game of the series Phoenix made a statement by ending Minnesota’s 9 game playoff winning streak in dominating fashion 85-71. All five Mercury starters managed double-digit scoring totals, but the real story behind their victory was the defense.
Phoenix ran a very aggressive trap and double trap defense, which focused on filling the passing lanes and disrupting Minnesota’s offensive flow. The strategy paid off as they held the Lynx to only 2 first half assists, while the Mercury ended the game with 24 points off 15 Lynx turnovers.
Lindsay Whalen scored 25 points, and Rebekkah Brunson fought hard with 12 points and 8 rebounds, but Seimone Augustus struggled to find her shot finishing 4-14 from the floor, and Maya Moore was held to only 9 points, marking the first time all season Moore has finished a game with single digits scoring.
Both Brittney Griner and Penny Taylor posted double-doubles. Griner finished game 1 with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Penny Taylor came close to a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists as the Mercury took a 1-0 advantage in the series on their home court.
“At the end of the game it comes down to making plays and getting stops. We have to control the things that we can control.”
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi
Game 2 saw the Lynx return to a Target Center filled with 10,513 fans, including 13-year old Mo’ne Davis (who recently became the first little league player ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated), the sell-out crowd displayed tremendous energy while hoping to help push the Lynx to a victory. The pressure was turned up when Phoenix jumped out to a 22-9 lead at the end of the first quarter as a result of Minnesota forcing too many turnovers and recording a poor shot percentage for the quarter.
The Lynx didn’t fold; they fought back and showed the heart and determination that has made them a Championship caliber team. Minnesota found a way to bring the game even late in the fourth quarter and sealed the win with a Seimone Augustus and-1 jumper that gave them a 78-75 lead with 23 seconds left in the game.
"It's all or nothing, it's the fourth quarter and it's our playoff lives on the line. We basically just had to lay it all out there. There is no tomorrow if we don't win. So at that point it was kind of full steam ahead, put our shoulders back, our chin up, and go get that win."
Minnesota Lynx forward Seimone Augustus
Maya Moore knocked down 5 three-point shots as she set a playoff career-high 32 points to go with 9 boards, and 3 steals. Seimone Augustus found lots of ways to contribute posting 23 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals. While point guard Lindsay Whalen added 17 points and 7 assists to the Lynx 82-77 victory in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree put up the top numbers for Phoenix in game 2. Taurasi finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while Dupree made an impact with 18 points and 9 boards.
"I thought our defense was really solid, then you look up and they shot 47% so this is a team that's very difficult to contend with, they run some really good stuff, have a terrific center, a terrific point guard that's a handful, and Candice Dupree is so understated in what she does. The crowd was great, terrific, big key for us."
Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve
The final clash between these two WNBA titans will take place on September 2nd at 9:00pm (CDT) on NBATV. The victor will head to the 2014 WNBA Finals to face either Chicago or Indiana, (series tied at 1-1) for the 2014 WNBA Championship.
“We knew it was going to be a tough series going in. 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" there to support us.”
Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello