DULUTH, GA -- For the second time in three seasons the Minnesota Lynx hoisted the WNBA Championship trophy on the home court of the Atlanta Dream, this time with an 86-77 win that completed a 7-0 run through the playoffs.
Maya Moore, who won three state championships at Collins Hill High School, just six miles up the road from the Gwinnett Arena, was named the WNBA Finals MVP after posting a game-high 23 points.
“It means the world to me,” said Moore about winning close to home. “I’m spoiled right now because I have so many people around me that I appreciate and who have helped me so much from middle school to high school."
Moore shot 54 percent from the field and knocked down the only two Lynx three-pointers of the game. As a team, the Lynx shot 52.7 percent and all five starters finished in double figures -- including forward Rebekkah Brunson, who became the all-time leading rebounder in WNBA Finals' history (129), passing retired Lynx Taj McWilliams-Franklin (124) after pulling down 12 rebounds to go with her 15 points.
The Atlanta Dream, who are now 0-9 in WNBA Finals, gave the Lynx the toughest run of this series, scoring more points in the paint and more second-chance points than Minnesota. The Dream also shot a blistering 52.9% from three-point range knocking down nine of 17 from behind the arc and for a while looked like they might come from behind and force a game four.
It didn't start that way, though, as the Dream fell behind by 10 points early as Janel McCarville scored six consecutive points. Atlanta coach Fred Williams then sat Angel McCoughtry after the scoring champion was held without a basket and turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes of the game. McCoughtry did not return to the game until the 8:35 mark of the second quarter -- at that point, however, she helped manufacture an 11-2 run, including her first field goal of the game, a three-pointer at the 3:57 mark to tie the game at 32.
The Dream finished the first half with a lot of momentum after Alex Bentley drove to the basket and drew a foul from Monica Wright for a three-point play, sending Minnesota to the locker room with a slight 40-37 lead.
In the third, Minnesota flexed its muscles and posted a 20-7 run to go up by 16. This included the most memorable play of the game when McCarville stole the ball from Erika de Souza, dribbled the length of the court, and then hit Brunson with a between-the-legs bounce pass for the wide open layup.
“To go between your legs to another post player -- that’s J-Mac,” said Lindsey Whalen about the daring play, her former college teammate at Minnesota. “That’s what she brings to the team. She was unbelievable tonight.”
The Dream kept the game within in striking distance thanks to a 20-point performance by Tiffany Hayes, including ten in the third quarter. Rookie Alex Bentley also added 18 points and six assists to help the Dream shave the lead back to seven.
However, the Dream could not contain the Lynx balanced scoring attack and ability to find the open mid-range jumpers. Time and time again, the Lynx would make the extra pass to hit the open man, keeping the Dream at bay. Seimone Augustus scored eight of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and Moore added six to hold off the Dream and clinch Minnesota's second WNBA Championship.
"They shot the ball really really well,” said Arminie Herrington, who posted eight points and three steals for the Dream. “But I’m just so proud of our team for sticking with it, never giving up and keeping our heads high. We played against a great team.”
Whalen, who scored 15 points and doled out six assists, goes down as the all-time assists leader in WNBA Finals history with a record 70 dimes over three appearances in the Finals. Meanwhile, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve now owns the best winning percentage of any coach in league postseason history with a 19-5 record and a .792 winning percentage.