Lynx 103, Mercury 86
After helping the Minnesota Lynx reach the WNBA finals for the first time in franchise history, Taj McWilliams-Franklin came up with an analogy to describe the feeling.
The 41-year-old center had a season-high 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists in the Lynx's 103-86 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday that completed a two-game sweep in the Western Conference finals.
''It's like you sit down to a great dinner and you eat your dinner,'' McWilliams-Franklin said. ''You feel great but you still want that dessert, and you want it to be the best dessert ever and that's how I feel. I'm satisfied because I am full from that main meal but I'm waiting on that fabulous dessert. The finals is going to be that dessert for me.''
Maya Moore had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, which needed three games to eliminate San Antonio in the first round before eliminating the Mercury.
The Lynx await the winner of the Indiana-Atlanta series that will be decided on Tuesday night. The WNBA finals begin Oct. 2 in Minneapolis, which had the league's best record in the regular season.
''I think for Taj she's just so smart,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''She plays the angles and knows exactly what's happening. There isn't anything she hasn't seen after all these years.''
Reeve, then an assistant, and McWilliams-Franklin were together in Detroit when the Shock won the last of their three championships in 2008.
Diana Taurasi had 22 points for the Mercury, who were swept in the West finals by eventual champion Seattle a year ago. Phoenix was routed by Minnesota in the first game but had a lead well into the third quarter on Sunday.
''We tried to switch things up, but they always had a pretty good counter for it,'' Taurasi said. ''They were well-prepared.''
The Mercury tried to run but didn't quite get in gear, according to coach Corey Gaines.
''We tried to up the tempo,'' he said. ''We just missed a little pop. I don't know if we were run down. I don't want to take anything away from them. They ran with us, they played half court with us.''
Gaines later added, ''They probably will win it. Not putting other teams down but they are tough and have a lot of scorers in every direction.''
The Lynx led by just three in the first minute of the fourth quarter but Candice Wiggins hit a pair a free throws and Moore made a 3-pointer, sparking a 15-5 run and Phoenix did not get closer the rest of the way. The Mercury missed eight of their next 11 shots and the Lynx opened up a tight game.
''We had a great sense of urgency,'' Moore said. ''I think that there were a few moments there where we needed to pick it up and we kind of lost our edge because Phoenix had their backs against the wall.''
DeWanna Bonner had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Candice Dupree had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Mercury.
Lindsay Whalen had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Seimone Augustus added 16 points for Minnesota, which had been in the postseason twice before - losing in the first round in 2003 and 2004.
Phoenix was in the conference finals for the third straight year and fourth in five years. The Mercury won the WNBA title in 2007 and 2009.
Minnesota had won three of five meetings with Phoenix during the regular season.
The Lynx used a 15-4 run in the first quarter to take a 24-20 lead but Phoenix started the second period on a 9-1 run to regain the lead.
Taurasi had 12 points while Bonner had 10 points and six rebounds to lead the Mercury to a 45-43 lead at the break.
McWilliams-Franklin and Whalen each had 11 points for the Lynx, who made 19 of 37 shots from the field in the first half but just 4 of 9 free throws.
The Lynx opened up a seven-point lead in the third before Taurasi converted a three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter and then hit a leaner 18 seconds into the final period to cut the Lynx lead to 70-67.