No MVP hangover for Maya Moore as Lynx survive late scare
MINNEAPOLIS -- Maya Moore’s ability to shift mental gears wasn’t a problem Thursday night. Neither was kicking her game into overdrive.
Moore, concerned about the fanfare and possible distractions associated with winning the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player Award on the eve of the playoffs, left the accolades in the locker room and played like the world’s best player.
She scored 26 points and was a force as a playmaker and defender in powering the Lynx to an 88-84 victory over the San Antonio Stars in Game 1 of the best-of-three Western Conference semifinals in front of 8,523 at Target Center.
Seimone Augustus added 16 points, including two jumpers in the final minute that allowed the Lynx to sidestep disaster. The Lynx, who had double-digit leads throughout, saw those margins dwindle in what has become a common theme this season for Minnesota.
But another customary trait is finding a necessary surge to thwart an opponent.
After the third-seeded Stars, who finished 16-18 during the regular season, used a massive rally to take a 73-72 lead with4:12 left, the Lynx found another gear in the final minutes.
Lindsay Whalen made two free throws with 18.7 seconds left and Moore made two more with 1.3 remaining to give Minnesota a four-point advantage. Whalen finished with 10 points and 11 assists, taking charge in the final minutes.
Game 2 is Saturday night in San Antonio. If Game 3 is necessary, it will be Monday at Target Center.
Rookie Kayla McBride scored 21 points and Becky Hammon had 17 for San Antonio.
The Stars whittled a 15-point Lynx lead to just two when McBride made a three-pointer from the near corner with 5:14 left to draw the rejuvenated Stars to within 72-70.
Minnesota had a 15-point lead at one point early in the third quarter, but San Antonio again wouldn’t wilt. The Stars drew to within seven points before the Lynx went on a surge to bump the advantage back to 12 with one quarter to play. Reserve guard Tan White hit a three-point from the far corner in the final seconds to give the Lynx that dozen-point cushion.
The Lynx overcame a putrid second quarter to build a 40-30 lead at the break. They did it on the strength of an 11-2 run that turned a three-point lead into a 38-24 advantage. Moore capped the surge on a baseline fadeaway jumper, complete with a leg kick, a la Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.
Moore had five points in the run and finished with 13 in the half. Equally impressive were her two assists that led to key baskets at crucial moments, including a laser pass to Rebekkah Brunson, who muscled in a layup for Minnesota’s final basket of the half.
Minnesota’s first basket of the second quarter didn’t come until 5:40 remained after Janel McCarville hit a layup and then made the awarded free throw. It stopped San Antonio’s 6-0 run and gave the Lynx some breathing room with a 27-22 lead.
The Lynx were 0 for 8 from the field to open the second quarter and looked like a totally different team without Moore on the floor. San Antonio knew that and went right after the Lynx to pull to within 24-22.
Fans were given a thrill in the first quarter when Lindsay Whalen and Moore combined on the play of the year, a playground maneuver that required athleticism on each end. From the left wing, Whalen drove into the lane and brought the ball into a deep scoop and deftly hit Moore in stride for a powerful layup that sent Moore sprawling into the crowd.
By Tim Leighton, St. Paul Pioneer Press The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service