The Minnesota Lynx defeated the Connecticut Sun 90-87 in overtime on Sunday afternoon to begin their title defense with a 2-0 record.
And as though they needed more talent, one of the most promising developments moving forward is the ease with which Brazilian rookie Damiris Dantas has adjusted to the league, as noted by Eric over at SB Nation's Minnesota Timberwolves site Canis Hoopus.
The Lynx tightened up their defense in the 2nd half, and tied the game at the end of regulation on a Seimone Augustus basket. Lindsay Whalen, who struggled all game, took over in the extra period and got the Lynx their second win of the season.
Coach Cheryl Reeve singled out rookie Damiris Dantas for praise for her screening and passing, as the Brazilian power forward made all four of her shots (7-7 on the year) and snagged nine rebounds as well. Maya Moore went for 33 and 12, and is looking, as mr. eggplant noted yesterday, like a rich man's Paul Pierce.
Ample credit to the relatively young Sun lineup for taking advantage of a poor first half for the Lynx offensively after their ring ceremony to get up by as many as 16 points with four minutes left in the third quarter. But the game was, once again, a testament to the immense talent of the Lynx - even when missing three players from last year's rotation due to injury - and their ability to find ways to turn the tide when nothing is actually going their way.
Defense was certainly part of the story with the Lynx holding the Sun to just 35.3% shooting in the second half - despite an impressive display by rookie Chiney Ogwumike, who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks - as well as forcing 11 turnovers for 18 points. But it's also hard to ignore the role of Maya Moore.
Moore is averaging 33.5 points and 10.5 rebounds through two games and though you might want to point to sample size before getting too excited, the fact that she's getting those points in so many different ways - drives to the basket, threes, free throws - is most impressive. Consider that one of the knocks on Moore coming into the league was that she didn't drive or get to the line as much as she probably should have in college, the fact that she's scoring so many points without really getting her mid-range game going (she's only hit four mid-range jumpers this season, according to the charts at NBA.com/stats) is frightening: Moore could get even better than she has been as the season goes on.
It's way too early to discuss MVP candidates, in my opinion, but Juan Martinez of Kicks on Fire used the occasion of Moore's hot start and new shoes to make the case that she's among the biggest basketball stars in the world, male or female right now.
Nearly two years ago, we named Maya Moore one of the greatest athletes in Jordan Brand's history because of her already legendary accomplishments in such a short span of time. Since then, Moore has won another WNBA championship and two Chinese Basketball Association championships to add to the resume. So yeah, when people ask if Moore is deserving of an Air Jordan 11 player exclusive celebrating her accomplishment, there should be no doubt what the answer is. And when the time comes to redo that list of Jordan Brand athletes, it's safe to say Moore will be cracking the top 10 and surpassing a few of your favorites (*cough* ‘Melo *cough* CP3 *cough*) in the process.
To Martinez's point, when Moore became the first female athlete to grab a Jordan contract two years ago, there was some discussion about whether she was more deserving than even some of her contemporaries like Candace Parker or tennis star Serena Williams. Maybe others get more mainstream attention for one reason or another, but Moore is making an early case as a candidate for the league's best player right now.