Lynx back in the Finals, once “Moore,” while Sky force a game 4

Natasha Howard goes up for the basket against Brittney Griner. Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images.
Natasha Howard goes up for the basket against Brittney Griner. Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images.

Phoenix, Ariz. – It was a familiar sight once again in Phoenix Sunday as a Maya Moore-led Minnesota Lynx team punched their ticket to the WNBA Finals.

The Lynx downed the Phoenix Mercury, 82-67, to sweep them in the semifinals, 3-0. Moore had 20 points after a dominating performance in game 2.

In the other semifinal series, the Chicago Sky came back from 15 down to hold off the Los Angeles Sparks, 70-66, and force a game 4.

Minnesota heads to the Finals for the fifth time in six years since selecting Moore first in the 2011 WNBA draft. The third game in this year’s series again saw the visiting team plagued by foul trouble.

A second personal foul forced Moore to the bench with 5:25 left in the first quarter. Phoenix, looking to take advantage, took the lead on the very next possession via a Diana Taurasi three-pointer, closing out the quarter, 23-18.

However, the Lynx were not going to let the opportunity to close out the series be delayed. They would enter halftime up by one point and use the third to further distance themselves. Natasha Howard would score 8 of her 17 points in the period that also saw the Lynx go on multiple runs and close out the frame up 65-53, before stretching it to as many as 22 points in the fourth.

Howard credited team play for the scoring surge.

“One of the keys for the third quarter was our defense,” Howard said, describing the quarter that saw the Lynx outscore Phoenix 26-15. “We got deflections, and that’s when our offense got flowing.”

Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen also scored in double figures for Minnesota, notching 12 and 11 points respectively.

Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner each scored 12 points for the Mercury, who who like last year see their season end at the hands of the Lynx.

Despite a slow start to their season, Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello admitted to feeling let down at its end.

“We are disappointed, but we’ll learn a lot from this season, and we’ll be better moving forward,” Brondello said. “Obviously that’s the team that we have to beat, so that’s how we should be trying to put this team together.”

The Lynx will now wait and see who they will play Sunday for game one of the finals which will also mark the Lynx’ return to Target Center.

The Sparks dominated the Sky during the series’ first two games, and Sunday looked to be a sweep until a second half Chicago rally got them back into the mix. Courtney Vandersloot led the Sky with 17 points as they held on in the game’s final minute to seal the win.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike was held to 10 points after scoring 12 in the first quarter, and forward Candace Parker was limited to just 9 points.

The two teams face off in game 4 at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, on ESPN2.

Sue Favor contributed to this report.