WASHINGTON — The Minnesota Lynx are back in the WNBA Finals after completing a semifinal sweep of the Washington Mystics on Sunday.
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
Maya Moore scored 21 points, Sylvia Fowles added 17 points and 14 rebounds, and the Lynx sealed their place in a third straight finals after pulling away to an 81-70 win in Game 3.
Seimone Augustus added 18 points to help make sure Minnesota will have the chance to win a fourth WNBA title in seven years.
“They challenged us in many ways that whoever comes out of the other series, Phoenix or LA, will challenge us in the same way,” Augustus said.
The Lynx will play Los Angeles in a rematch of theWNBA Finals. The Sparks won last season’s championship round in five games.
Despite winning all three semifinal games by double digits, the Lynx felt fortunate to escape Washington just as the Mystics seemed to be gaining their footing.
“This is a team that didn’t have most of their group together for a big stretch of the season,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Washington. “What concerned me was the longer they played, the better they were getting. And so we thought it was really important not to give them that life.”
Elena Delle Donne scored 15 points to lead the Mystics, who exit the playoffs after reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2002.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 14 points and Kristi Toliver had 13 for Washington, which forced the Lynx into a series-high 13 turnovers.
But the Mystics scored only 31 second-half points in their sixth loss in as many games against Minnesota in 2017, including regular season and playoffs.
“When you’re matched up against a team like Minnesota, that’s the kind of team that sets the bar,” Toliver said. “And we got to play against the bar.”
After falling behind by seven late in the second quarter, the Lynx responded with a 17-0 run that stretched across halftime to build a 10-point lead.
Augustus scored Minnesota’s first seven points of the second half, including a transition 3-pointer off Moore’s kickout. Moore added a technical free throw charged to the Mystics bench to make it 49-39 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Washington closed back to within two. That’s when Fowles scored twice in one possession, aided by her own offensive rebound and another from Rebekkah Brunson. That made it 63-57, and the lead grew again from there.
“We just look at, when is the moment we can break a team,” Fowles said. “We just keep going and we try to find those breaking points where we can get in there and get the job done.”
TIP-INS: The Lynx went 4 of 5 from 3-point range to start the game, before finishing 7 for 14. … After having only five turnovers in each of its first two games in the series, Minnesota committed that many by the end of the first quarter of Game 3. . Washington was held below 40 percent shooting (12 of 32, 37.5 percent) for the first time in the series.
Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen became the fifth player in WNBA history to reach 900 career points in the postseason. She finished with eight points in 22 minutes in her third game back after missing the last 12 regular season games with a broken finger.
CALL IT 50-50-50
The Lynx shot 50 percent or better from the floor in all three games in the series. They hovered beneath the mark for most of the second half Sunday before finishing at exactly 50 percent after Temi Fagbenle’s jumper made the Lynx 32 of 64.
Shooting guard Bradley Beal was the headline member of a group of four Washington Wizards players who were among the crowd of 7,950 at Capital One Arena.
Minnesota will host Los Angeles in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals next Sunday at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena.