MINNESOTA, MN -- Failure is not an option for any team on a run for a WNBA Championship. But, failure is bound to happen for one team. For instance, the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1. When faced with failure a team has two options: let it affect them, or let it drive them.
Maya Moore and the Lynx chose the latter.
Minnesota came out with tenacity to beat Los Angeles 79-60 in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. Moore and the Lynx fought the entire 40 minutes to tie up the series, 1-1.
After the buzzer beater loss on Sunday night Minnesota made it clear this series won’t get away from them without a fight. It was Moore who immediately set the tone, and let the Sparks know it is not the same team from Game 1.
That was Moore’s explicit goal, since she didn’t get on the board in Game 1 until the second half.
“That's what I kind of took on myself personally today was just I'm going to bring more energy than I did last game,” Moore said. “It was contagious for me from other players who brought energy, and 1 through 11 it was probably one of our best games as far as energy in the Playoffs.”
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Moore was the overriding factor in this victory. This time around she nailed a pull-up jumper only three minutes into the first quarter.
When her first shot went through the net, the Target Center erupted. Lynx fans knew their star was back.
She was dominating on both sides of the ball. With 3:37 left in the first, Nneka Ogwumike missed a shot, and Moore snatched the rebound. She went coast to coast, faking out defenders for a running jump shot.
“Maya responded,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “… I think Maya had a lot of fun today.”
Minnesota shined in the second quarter and went on a 17-3 run over the Sparks. Moore was a major contributor in the run.
She nailed a 3-point shot with 4:07 left in the second quarter. She showcased her agility by escaping Los Angeles defenders all night. Just 30 seconds after her three Moore got the ball, darted around Ogwumike and drove down the lane for a smooth, underhand layup.
A few minutes passed and Moore, once again, could not be stopped. Ogwumike missed her foul shot, and Moore grabbed the rebound. She ran down the court and dropped another 3-pointer.
“I think Maya, more than anything, just wanted for our team to play the way that they’re capable of playing,” Reeve said. “I thought she gave us a big lift with her focus, her intensity.”
Just when the crowd thought Moore couldn’t be more impressive, she showed her versatility. With just over one-minute left in the half, Moore snagged a rebound off Essence Carson’s missed shot. From right next to the hoop, Moore heaved a one-handed quarterback-style pass all the way down the court. The ball met Lindsay Whalen under the basket, and she got the layup plus the foul.
In the third quarter, the Sparks went on a 14-0 run, but Moore kept the energy high and motivated her teammates. She started to taste the failure from Game 1 again, and it ignited a fire within.
To get the Lynx back into a commanding position, Moore had to make a big play. About three minutes left in the third, Moore got the ball just outside the arc; she crossed the ball over to get a little room from her defender, and that was all she needed to hit her trademark step-back jumper. The shot recharged the entire Target Center and her team.
“That Target Center starts a-rockin’; that’s kind of what we pride ourselves on, like we feed off their energy, and once we got going … it was like no turning back,” Seimone Augustus, Lynx guard, said.
Minnesota came back with a 10-1 at the end of the third quarter, and stayed on top in the fourth. Moore didn’t make much noise in the final quarter, besides going 4/4 on foul shots, but her performance was already solidified in Game 2 – and it was exactly what the Lynx needed to make a statement.
Moore not only notched her fourth career double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but she also pushed her teammates. She kept them motivated in keeping their eyes on the prize of a fourth WNBA Championship.
“…This team bounces back well, and you can't stay down for too long when you're on this team, and I'm a part of that, of wanting to come in and bring that energy,” Moore said.