Maya Moore scored 22 points, Lindsay Whalen had 15 and Seimone Augustus 14 as Minnesota beat Tulsa 83-59 to win its fourth straight and clinched a playoff spot at the earliest point in franchise history. The defending champion Lynx (17-4) didn’t clinch a postseason berth until their 26th game last season.
“It means absolutely nothing to us. That’s not the mission,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We know it’s part of the process.”
Whalen also had four assists to pass Katie Smith for the franchise lead with 498.
Glory Johnson led Tulsa (3-17) with 17 points. The Shock have lost four straight overall and remain winless in eight road games this season. Five of Tulsa’s next seven games are away from home.
Minnesota, which has beaten the Shock four times this year by an average of 20 points, shot 50 percent from the field and had a 38-27 edge in rebounding. This was the third meeting in four games between the teams, who also played a home-and-home series before the Olympic break.
The Lynx were nearly flawless in beating Washington 98-69 Friday, but struggled to put this game away until the final period when it outscored Tulsa 25-7.
“It was one of those nights where shots weren’t going in and we had some turnovers (13) in the first half,” Whalen said. “I really have confidence in the team that we’re going to make the plays and kind of share the ball when we need to and make a defensive play.”
Up 58-52 entering the fourth quarter, Moore made a 3-pointer and Whalen converted a three-point play to give the Lynx its first double-digit lead since the first quarter and bring the sellout crowd of 10,223 to its feet.
Moore later had another 3-pointer and added two more free throws to make it 75-54 before back-to-back jumpers by Amber Harris capped an 18-0 run for a 79-54 lead with 2 minutes to play.
Besides going 11 of 13 from the free-throw line, Minnesota was 6 for 11 from the field in the final quarter; Tulsa 3 for 19.
Reeve said the Lynx did a much better job contesting shots, while Augustus noted the team’s defensive intensity picked up.
“We were able to get out and get easy baskets and set the tempo in the fourth quarter maybe like we didn’t do in the first half and even a little bit in the third quarter,” Augustus said.
It was the second straight game that Tulsa faded down the stretch. The Shock were outscored by 11 in the fourth of Friday’s 89-79 loss to San Antonio.
“We need to go back to the drawing board and figure out why we’re giving up so easy in the second half,” Johnson said. “Once they had a run we let them make another run and we tried to pick it up a little bit, but when they start hitting 3s you know there’s not much you can do if you’re not scoring.”
Whalen scored nine of the first 16 Lynx points, including a fast-break layup to cap a 9-0 run to make it 16-7, but Ivory Latta made a pair of 3-pointers as Tulsa finished the first quarter on a 14-5 run to get within 24-23.
A couple of layups by Amber Holt put the Shock up 32-30 midway through the second quarter, but Rebekkah Brunson scored on a fast-break layup in the final second to give the Lynx a 42-39 halftime lead.
The Lynx wore commemorative uniforms with pink lettering and numbers in honor of the team’s Breast Health Awareness Week.