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Lynx force deciding Game 3 with comeback win

Minnesota Lynx players Rebekkah Burnson (left to right) Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen get pumped up during the fourth quarter during Game 2 of the WNBA Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday, August 31, 2014, at the Target Center.(Pioneer Press: Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)

The Minnesota Lynx aren’t ready to call it a season.

Facing elimination on their home court and with a fourth consecutive trip to the WNBA finals at stake, the Lynx forced a deciding game in the Western Conference finals after a dramatic 82-77 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in front of a sellout crowd of 10,513 Sunday at Target Center.

Minnesota’s victory tied the best-of-three series at one game apiece with a deciding Game 3 to be played in Phoenix on Tuesday night.

Minnesota, the defending league champion, outscored the Mercury 46-33 in the second half to wipe out what had been a double-digit deficit in the first half.

Maya Moore scored 32 points and Seimone Augustus had 23 to power the Lynx.

Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 23 points. Phoenix is trying to advance to the league finals for the first time since 2009, when it won the second of two championships.

Seimone Augustus made a jumper from just inside the arc and was fouled with 23.3 seconds remaining. She made the awarded free throw to give the Lynx a 78-75 lead.

Moore made a fallaway 20-foot jumper with a minute left in regulation to give the Lynx a 75-73 lead. But as the Mercury had done throughout after the Lynx had taken a lead, Phoenix answered with a quick drive by Candice Dupree.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Moore made a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to give the Lynx a short-lived 69-65 lead. When she made the three-pointer, it appeared to signal the Lynx clearly had seized the momentum. Instead, Phoenix answered with back-to-back baskets by Griner and Taurasi with just more than four minutes remaining to tie the score at 69-all.

Augustus gave the Lynx a 66-65 lead on an inside cut to the basket that she finished with a power layup with 6:19 left in regulation. It was Minnesota’s first lead since a free throw by Lindsay Whalen to open the scoring. Augustus’ basket was part of a 10-3 run to open the fourth quarter.

Earlier, Whalen made a baseline jumper with 2:53 left in the third quarter to draw the Lynx to within 54-51. The shot energized the crowd, but Phoenix answered with a run of its own to build a 62-56 lead after three quarters.

Minnesota pulled to within 52-47 with 5:11 left in the third quarter after three consecutive free throws by Seimone Augustus. She was fouled in the act of shooting by Phoenix’s Britney Griner, who then received a technical for her running commentary to the official about the call.

It was the closest the Lynx had been since the early minutes when Phoenix started with a flurry.

Taurasi had 13 points and Candice Dupree has 12 to help power the Mercury to a 44-36 halftime lead. Griner was held to four points and zero rebounds in the first half, yet the Lynx were unable to take advantage.

The Lynx made 14 of 37 shots in the first half, which was a small victory in itself. Minnesota was 1 of 12 from the field in the early going, its first field goal coming from Lindsay Whalen with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

Whalen had 15 points in the first half and was the only reason Minnesota was within striking distance of the streaking and poised Mercury.

The Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.