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Fowles’ ‘poise’ carries Lynx to top of WNBA

While Maya Moore struggled early on during the Minnesota Lynx’s 77-74 win over the Los Angeles Sparks, it was Sylvia Fowles who stole the show — and kept the Lynx in position to take the game.

Adam Pantozzi - Getty Images

Los Angeles, CA — Maya Moore once again proved that she is one of the best players in the WNBA.

On Tuesday night, when the Minnesota Lynx took on the Los Angeles Sparks in a critical battle for playoff position, it was Moore who carried the Lynx to the finish line.

The forward hit a big three-pointer, followed by a quick bucket to give the Lynx a 10-point buffer late in the fourth quarter. She then dropped four more in the final three minutes of the game, leading the Lynx to a 77-74 win and claiming the best record in the WNBA.

In fact, Moore finished with 20 points, 12 of which game in the fourth quarter.

She went off, and it gave the Lynx the win.

But, that wasn’t the story most of the game.

At halftime, Moore had just four points. Essentially, she was a non-factor in a game that carried so much weight in the WNBA playoff picture.

Yet still surviving, Moore said she was just happy the team fought out a tough win.

“This is a very experienced team. We have gone through so much together, and we have been in similar situations where things are tough,” Moore said. “In those moments we just have to pick each other up and get them out of those difficult spots and stay steady through the highs and lows.

“And eventually, things will go in our favor if we keep going and tonight was an example of that.”

Instead of the usual Moore, though, it was center Sylvia Fowles who stole the show.

The former WNBA Finals MVP took over early on, asserting herself in the post and grabbing several quick buckets.

Yet Fowles went down just less than three minutes into the game after nailing her knee on the floor.

It looked like the Lynx were in trouble. Without Fowles, Minnesota’s presence in the paint is relatively minimal.

However, Fowles didn’t let the injury phase her. She returned to the game just minutes later, and continued right where she left off. Heading into halftime, Fowles had 11 points and six rebounds, shooting a near perfect 4-of-5 from the field.

Fowles’ play didn’t stop there. In the second half, she continued to dominate in the post and gaining position to grab easy points. She created offense, too, setting countless screens that developed into many offensive opportunities for both her and the rest of the team.

By the end, Fowles finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, and shot 9-of-11 from the field.

“[I was] just trying to keep my poise, the Sparks have a really good defense, so I just need to pick my spots,” Fowles said. “It can’t just be the first quarter or the first half, you have to keep going throughout the game, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Overall, it was impressive. She carried the team through the first three-quarters. But the Lynx had just a four-point lead going into the final period.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Lynx had found a way to break ahead. And while that had a lot to do with Moore kicking it into gear and finding her offense, most of the credit deserves to go to Fowles.

She held it down while Moore struggled offensively. And sure, Moore still got hers in the end. But if Fowles hadn’t kept the Lynx in the game, Moore’s late push may not have been enough to give the Lynx a four-point win.

It was Fowles who carried the load. She kept hope alive.

Heading into the playoffs, Lynx fans need not worry if Moore starts to struggle again. Fowles has proven that she can run the show.

A Fowles and Moore combination when they’re both producing can be deadly — the two combined for 41 points on Tuesday. However, when there’s just one of them on, the Lynx can absolutely survive.

Tuesday night proved that.