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Moore, Lynx overcome loss of "heart and soul" to beat Mercury

In a very critical game, the Minnesota Lynx -- who were already without Seimone Augustus -- was able to gut out a victory despite losing Lindsay Whalen. The Lynx beat the Mercury, 71-61

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Lynx shot just 32.9 percent from the field at the Target Center Sunday night in their 71-61 victory over the Phoenix Mercury. That stat takes a back seat when you attempt 16 more shots on the night than your opponent, earn 13 offensive rebounds, and hold one of the league's most dominant players scoreless in the second half.

Center Brittney Griner led Phoenix (17-12) to a three-point advantage in the first quarter with nine points and two blocks. Lynx forward Maya Moore matched those nine points while adding three rebounds and two assists to keep Minnesota (19-10) within striking distance.

"When she's open we need to get her the ball. That's where it starts. And when she does get it we have to have good movement," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said of Griner.

The struggling Lynx, dealt losses in four of their last five games, had a scare early in the second quarter. Starting guard, Lindsay Whalen pulled up with what appeared to be pain in her foot. During the next timeout, trainers put ice on the area before Whalen headed to the locker room questionable to return.

Moore carried the offense for Minnesota with nine points in the second quarter, but the Lynx only shot 28.6 percent from the field in Whalen's absence. Meanwhile, Griner continued her effectiveness on both ends of the court with a total 13 points and five blocks as the Mercury headed into halftime with a 39-34 edge over Minnesota.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve strung together a new lineup in the second half as it was confirmed Whalen would not return to the game. When Minnesota opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the game, a heated Brondello took an early timeout to refocus her Mercury. Minnesota's offense push was quickly halted as Griner put on a defensive show in the paint racking up four more blocks on the night.

The fourth quarter proved more physical for the frustrated Western Conference rivals with eight fouls called in the first four minutes.  Lynx Renee Montgomery helped build momentum with 15 points off the bench, including two quick field goals from behind the arc at the beginning of the fourth.

Moore's aggressive play, amassing 28 total attempts, led her team to a hard fought 71-61 win over Phoenix. The 2014 MVP totaled 29 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Center Sylvia Fowles added 14 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.

The Lynx's stellar defense held Griner scoreless in the second half. Forward DeWanna Bonner led the Mercury with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Candice Dupree added 14 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

Both teams have already clinched playoff berths, but each coach has emphasized the importance of home court advantage. In the Lynx and Mercury match up precisely, the home team has now won eight straight, and 11 of the last 12 games.

With the win, Minnesota breaks their two-game losing skid and earns a three-game lead in the Western Conference standings over the defending WNBA Champions.