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Moore carries Lynx to WNBA Finals with 40-point performance

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Maya Moore led Minnesota through its Western Conference Finals 72-71 victory over defending champions, Phoenix Mercury. Moore secured the team’s fourth WNBA Finals appearance in five years from the free-throw line with 1.5 seconds remaining.

Chris Poss

Maya Moore's 40 points shattered her playoff career high Sunday as she led Minnesota to a 72-71 win in Phoenix Sunday, solidifying their spot in the WNBA Finals.

Moore's previous career high was 33, and she was just two points shy of the highest recorded single point total in WNBA history.

With the 2-0 series sweep over the defending champion Mercury (20-14), the Lynx (22-12) advanced to their fourth WNBA Finals appearance in five years.

On the Phoenix inbound with 5.4 seconds left, Moore blocked the Noelle Quinn pass in and drew a foul on the recovery of the loose ball, sending her to the line with just 1.5 seconds remaining.

"It was one of those instances where you just keep playing until the last horn," Moore said. "I got a deflection and just made some hustle plays to finish the game. Most of the time, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. Not in the sense that I don't know what's going on, I'm just locked into the moment. Everybody had their moment today and made it easier on me."

With the way Moore had been playing all night, everyone in the building expected what came next. Moore sank just one of her attempts at the line, but one was just enough to clinch the Western Conference series.

"I disagree with the call at the end," Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello said. "Number one, it wasn't a foul, so to make that big play, let the two best teams decide with the extra five minutes who wins the game."

Bonner, Phoenix's infamous buzzer beater, was noticeably absent during the final attempt after fouling out with 38.7 seconds remaining.

"Maya went off with 40, but I still think DeWanna played pretty good defense," Brondello said. "That's just a special player going off and Maya can do that. We try to crowd her as much as we could, but she moves. Her energy is amazing, I don't know where she gets it, she does it day in and day out, and that says a lot about her."

As to be expected, it was a grueling battle between Moore and Phoenix's Brittney Griner, who finished with 15 points. Down 15-25, Griner led the Mercury on an 11-0 run to open the second quarter to take their first lead of the game, 28-27 at the 5:48 mark.

Griner, held scoreless in the first quarter, scored the first five points of the rally.

As the Lynx lead dwindled away, Moore kicked it into high gear, scoring 17 consecutive of Minnesota's points to put it at 52-53 near the end of the third quarter.

Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.

"For the last five minutes, we were focused on trying to be disciplined on defense and execute on offense," Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said. "I thought it was important to keep the mindset of 'if we don't score, they don't score,' just to keep it within striking distance for us to at least have a chance to tie at the end and see if us or them could make a play.

"I think it was fitting for this group, for as much as we talk about stay with it and making plays, we come off and execute (on Moore's last-second deflection) where we did not make the play," Reeve continued.

Four players finished in double digits for Phoenix. Candice Dupree led the way with 16; Griner tallied 15, Monique Currie added 14 and Bonner finished with 13.

"Honestly I don't think that that was a foul at the end there—it's kind of tough to end your season off of that," Bonner said. "We can't really define our season off of that. We had one great season for my teammates. We've been through so much, nobody expected us to be here, so to lose off of that play, I mean it hurts but we'll take it."