Damiris Dantas totaled a career-playoff-high 22 points and eight rebounds, and the fourth-seeded Minnesota Lynx staged a second-half rally to edge the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury 80-79 Thursday in the single-elimination second round of the WNBA playoffs in Bradenton, Fla.
Minnesota moves on to face either top-seeded Las Vegas or second-seeded Seattle in a best-of-five semifinal series. Seventh-seeded Connecticut plays third-seeded Los Angeles later Thursday, and each round is reseeded so the highest seed plays the lowest seed.
The Lynx overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to seize the advantage after the break. But they still needed to hold off a final push by the Mercury.
After Skylar Diggins-Smith hit a baseline jumper to cut Minnesota's lead to 80-79 with 35.3 seconds to play, Crystal Dangerfield missed a jumper with 14.5 seconds remaining. But on the Mercury's ensuing possession, Brianna Turner touched the ball while out of bounds to give possession back to the Lynx with 8.1 seconds to play.
Dantas missed both free throws on Minnesota's next possession, but Diggins-Smith misfired on a long heave at the buzzer.
Minnesota began its charge in the third quarter, outscoring Phoenix 23-14 to even the score at 60 entering the final period. The Lynx later got back-to-back 3-pointers from Dangerfield and Dantas to take a 70-64 lead with 7:13 to play.
Diana Taurasi registered 28 points and nine assists for the Mercury. She tried to ignite a Phoenix fourth-quarter comeback by converting two four-point plays in less than two minutes to cut Minnesota's lead to 78-77 with 3:17 to play. But Odyssey Sims answered with a jumper, and the Lynx's advantage held until the end.
Dangerfield, who earlier Thursday was named the league's Rookie of the Year, struggled in the first half but came alive in the second, finishing with 17 points. Sylvia Fowles, the WNBA's all-time leading rebounder, recorded six points and four rebounds in her return from a calf injury that kept her out for 13 games.
Turner finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Mercury teammate Kia Vaughn added 10 points and eight rebounds. They carried the load for Phoenix on a night when standout Diggins-Smith shot 3 of 15 from the floor and finished with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.
Phoenix's Shey Peddy, who moved into the starting lineup after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer Tuesday in a playoff win over Washington, left the game in the second quarter after being hit in the face on a drive by Sims.
Peddy briefly tried to return in the second half but then left the game again and did not return. She scored three points in 14 minutes.
--Field Level Media