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Liberty, Mercury Pick Up Pieces After Losing in WNBA Conference Finals

The 2015 WNBA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever gets underway Sunday in Minnesota, as the No. 1 (Lynx) and No. 3 (Fever) teams in their respective conference take the final strides to claiming a championship.

Following the conference finals, the New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury can be added to the list of teams that had their championship dreams crushed.

The conference final defeat is an especially tough pill to swallow for the Liberty, who held first place in the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season and finished with the best record in the WNBA at 23-11.

Led by Tina Charles, Candice Wiggins, Epiphanny Price and rookie Kiah Stokes, the Liberty were the favorite to come out of the East and reach the WNBA Finals. While it took three games to beat the Washington Mystics in the conference semifinals thanks to a Mystics upset at Madison Square Garden in Game 1, it looked like New York was well on its way to the Finals after a game and a half against Indiana.

The Liberty routed the Fever 84-67 in Game 1 and then ran out to an 18-point lead in Game 2, but Indiana rallied back to stun New York and complete the upset. If the Liberty had moved on to the Finals, it would’ve been their first appearance since 2002, but instead they can only lament the missed opportunity and gear up for another run next season.

As for Phoenix, the reigning WNBA champions won’t get a shot to fulfill back-to-back championships after the Lynx swept them in the Western Conference Finals, and there was some controversy to go along with it.

The Mercury plowed through the Tulsa Shock in the two conference semifinal games, with Brittney Griner looking as dominant as ever. However, the tables turned on them when they took on the star-studded Lynx.

Making matters worse, Phoenix’s season ended on a controversial call that rendered an apology from the league. The Mercury’s Noelle Quinn was called for a foul against the Lynx’s Maya Moore after a steal with 1.5 seconds left, but reviews showed there shouldn’t have been a foul called. Moore went to the line and split the two free throws to give her a playoff career-high 40 points and the Lynx a 72-71 victory plus a Finals berth.

Fouls hurt the Mercury throughout the season-ending defeat. Griner ran into foul trouble for the majority of the game while DeWanna Bonner, who posted 13 points, was removed from the game after committing her sixth foul with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Mercury finished with a 20-14 record in the regular season. Originally, the team wasn’t projected to fare all that well considering they didn’t have star Diana Taurasi, a player who played a large part in helping Phoenix scoop up the championship in 2014. The Mercury put forth a valiant effort nonetheless, but they just didn’t have enough to beat the talented Lynx and the refs.

While these results were certainly disappointing for the Liberty and Mercury, they should be back and ready to roll next year. Both squads boast plenty of talent, and Taurasi is expected to return to Phoenix for the 2016 campaign. There will be good times ahead in New York and Phoenix.

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