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WNBA playoffs: Crystal Dangerfield leads Minnesota Lynx into semi-finals

Seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun oust third seeds the Los Angeles Sparks to reach last four

Crystal Dangerfield drives at the Mercury defense during Minnesota's playoff win over Phoenix
Image: Crystal Dangerfield drives at the Mercury defense during Minnesota's playoff win over Phoenix

Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half as Minnesota beat Phoenix 80-79 on Thursday night to advance to the semi-finals of the WNBA playoffs.

Thursday night's WNBA playoff scores

  • Phoenix Mercury 79-80 Minnesota Lynx
  • Connecticut Sun 73-59 Los Angeles Sparks
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Phoenix Mercury 79-80 Minnesota Lynx

Crystal Dangerfield #2 of the Minnesota Lynx drives to the basket guarded by Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury in the second half of Game One of their Second Round playoff at Feld Entertainment Center on September 17, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. 2:01
Highlights of the WNBA playoff second-round elimination game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Minnesota Lynx.

Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half as Minnesota beat Phoenix 80-79 on Thursday night to advance to the semi-finals of the WNBA playoffs.

Damiris Dantas led Minnesota with 22 points although she missed a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds left giving Phoenix the chance to pull off another last-second postseason victory. With no timeouts left, the Mercury got the ball up the court but Skylar Diggins-Smith's shot was off the mark at the buzzer.

The loss was the first in eight career single-elimination playoff games for Diana Taurasi. She had 28 points and nine assists to lead the Mercury.

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Fourth-seeded Minnesota had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the previous two seasons.

"When you think about the odds of beating a Diana Taurasi team in single-elimination games - you can tell me what her record is - we knew we had our work cut out for us," said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who earned the league's Coach of the Year honours earlier in the day. "A lot of effort went into guarding her and she still had 28 points and nine assists. A lot of things need to go your way."

Crystal Dangerfield #2 of the Minnesota Lynx dribbles during the second half against the Phoenix Mercury in Game One of their Second Round playoff at Feld Entertainment Center on September 17, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. 1:02
Rookie of the year Crystal Dangerfield scored 17 points as the Minnesota Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury to advance to the semi-finals of the WNBA playoffs.

Dangerfield was a big reason why that streak ended. She scored seven points in a 10-3 run to give Minnesota the lead for good, 74-67. Taurasi converted consecutive four-point plays to get the Mercury within one before Odyssey Sims' basket made it 80-77 with 2:31 to go.

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Sims finished with 14 points and Rachel Banham 11 for fourth-seeded Minnesota, which will play No 2 Seattle in a best-of-5 semi-final series that begins on Sunday.

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Minnesota's 6ft 6in Sylvia Fowles, the league's all-time leading rebounder and 2017 league MVP, was playing for the first time after aggravating a right calf injury on August 13. She played 18 minutes, scoring six points with four rebounds.

Brianna Turner added 13 points and 14 rebounds and Kia Vaughn 10 points for the fifth-seeded Mercury, who have been hampered by injuries and Brittney Griner leaving the bubble for personal reasons for most of the second half of the season.

Connecticut Sun 73-59 Los Angeles Sparks

Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun handles the ball against the Los Angeles Sparks during the WNBA playoffs on September 17, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. 1:41
Highlights of the WNBA playoff second-round elimination game between the Connecticut Sun and the Los Angeles Sparks.

DeWanna Bonner scored 17 points and pulled down 13 rebounds as the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun eliminated the third-seeded Los Angeles Sparks 73-59.

The Sun, who swept the Sparks in the semi-finals last year, will now take on the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces in a best-of-five semi-final series that starts on Sunday.

Alyssa Thomas added 19 points to lead five Sun players in double figures.

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"We are really excited, 7-3 in the last two years in the playoffs," Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. "Pretty good 10 game stretch."

The Sun jumped out to a 22-8 lead and led from there after the Sparks shot just 21 per cent in the opening quarter. The Sparks rallied within six before Connecticut finished the second quarter on a 10-0 run. It would have been 12 straight points except Bonner's lay-up settled on the back of the rim and remained there as the teams headed off the floor.

Briann January hit a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter to give the Sun their largest lead of 20.

Candace Parker had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Sparks, who were without third-leading scorer Nneka Ogwumike, sidelined with a migraine.

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Star guard Chelsea Gray was held to just four points and didn't have an assist for the first time since the Sparks' loss to Minnesota in the last game of the WNBA Finals in 2016.

The Sparks came into the game as the league's top three-point shooting team but made only 2-of-18 against the Sun, missing their first 12. Their 59 total points were the fewest they scored in any game this season.

The Sun, swept by the Sparks during the regular season, scrambled to reach the playoffs after losing their first five games. They beat the Chicago Sky by 14 in their first-round game.

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