- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A key third quarter stretch and tough defense on the league MVP has the Phoenix Mercury a win away from the WNBA Finals.

Brittney Griner had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Mercury held off a late rally to beat the Minnesota Lynx 85-71 on Friday night in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Western Conference finals.

“Defensively we were just the team unit, so locked in, we have been so consistently good on the defensive end all season long and that was the key for us,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.

In particular, defense on league scoring leader and MVP Maya Moore, who was held to nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

“Obviously, DeWanna Bonner, she is a great defender,” Brondello said. “She probably doesn’t get that kind of recognition, as she should, but she is, and she is always locking down the best player. Maya Moore is a great player but I thought we executed quite well against her.”

Penny Taylor added 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of steals for the Mercury, who built a 25-point lead in the third quarter before Minnesota got within 10 in the final period.

“It’s been tonight what I have been trying to do all season, is just fill the gaps, do what I can to lift the team when we need to,” the 12th-year veteran Taylor said. “Tonight it was a lot of assists in the first half and then in the second, I tried to be more aggressive on the boards and that sort of thing.”

Taylor missed her first three shots and then made 3 of 4 in the third when Phoenix pulled away.

Game 2 is Sunday in Minneapolis.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve credited Phoenix for keeping her big scorer quiet on Friday.

“Early in the game I thought that Maya didn’t have an understanding of what was available,” Reeve said. “I thought that Phoenix, in typical fashion, their team defense was really good. So maybe where Maya had openings, they closed quickly and her recognition of what happens next was not very good.”

Diana Taurasi added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists on an off-shooting night (5 for 15) while Bonner had 16 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix, which won three of four meetings with Minnesota during the regular season.

The Mercury held Minnesota to 40 percent shooting (29-of-73) and outrebounded the Lynx 45-31.

“Everyone kind of took turns on making sure the boards were sound and when we do that it gives us a little more freedom on offense to go,” Taurasi said.

Lindsay Whalen had 25 points to lead the Lynx. Rebekkah Brunson had 10 points and eight rebounds.

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