When Minnesota got off to a slow start, Rebekkah Brunson stepped up her defensive play and helped get the Lynx within one win of returning to the WNBA Finals.
Maya Moore scored 19 points and Brunson had 13 points and a franchise playoff-record 19 rebounds to lead the Lynx to a 67-60 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in the opener of the Western Conference finals Thursday night.
The Mercury shot well early, opening up a nine-point lead at one point in the first quarter. Minnesota then took off on a 20-2 run, fueled in part by a stretch where Phoenix missed 9 of 10 field goals.
"I knew it was going to be important for me to get us going in the beginning of the game," said Brunson, who became the WNBA's all-time leader in playoff offensive rebounds. "They're a team that comes out aggressive in the beginning and things weren't going our way, so I tried whatever I could to lift us."
Brunson had 10 points and 11 rebounds to help the Lynx use a big second-quarter run to take a 35-32 lead at halftime. Minnesota led throughout the second half.
Seimone Augustus added 14 points for the Lynx.
Dewanna Bonner led Phoenix with 21 points, including a pair of long-range 3-pointers in the final minute, cutting Minnesota's lead to 64-60 with 38.5 seconds to play. But Moore hit two free throws to seal the win.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve credited Brunson's effort for the victory.
"Rebekkah was unbelievable," Reeve said, joking that Brunson should endorse a certain brand of adhesive strips. "Our sponsorship people need to get on it right now. She needs to be the face of it, because there's not a bigger Band-Aid than what we just experienced with Rebekkah. She was so engaged, at a high level."
Candice Dupree had a team-high 12 rebounds for Phoenix, but was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter for protesting a call.
"They took us out of everything," Bonner said, crediting Minnesota's defense. "As a team we couldn't find an offensive flow. We had it going a little bit in the first half, but in the second half they turned it up a notch."
The Lynx led by as many as nine in the second quarter before a late rally by Phoenix cut it to one. Brunson's putback at the halftime buzzer gave Minnesota its three-point lead.
"I thought Rebekkah Brunson ... she was a beast," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. "You saw what she's capable of, to play nearly 40 minutes and play as hard as she did. We have to do a better job."
It's the third consecutive meeting in the Western Conference Finals for these two teams. Minnesota swept in 2013 on the way to the league title, while Phoenix matched them last season, winning the series 2-1, then capturing the WNBA crown.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is Sunday in Phoenix.