Midway through the third quarter, Maya Moore had a look on her face that said it all. Not today, Phoenix. Not today.
Moore scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 second half points, to help keep the Lynx title hopes alive this afternoon at the Target Center. The Lynx struggled earlier on - shooting 14.3 percent in the first quarter (2-for-14) - and faced an uphill climb trailing 22-9 entering the second quarter. But there was no quit in this squad.
Eventually they found their grove, and it was a 13-0 run early in the fourth quarter that shifted the entire tone of the game; the team finally looked comfortable and confident. That run gave them their first lead since the first point of the game, and the packed crowd responded with a white towel waving exuberance.
Though the Lynx bench struggled mightily all afternoon, chipping in a meager 4 points, the big three - Moore, Augustus, and Whalen - combined for 72 points and did enough to counteract a poor game from the reserves. It's certainly tough to win basketball games when only three players score all but 10 of the teams points, but the trio was excellent and helped push the Lynx to an 82-77 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.
While Lindsay Whalen was sensational in the first half, chipping in 15 points and keeping the team in the game during a rocky stretch, it was Moore and Augustus that carried the Lynx in the second half. The two combined for 34 second half points and ultimately found a way to break down a tough Mercury defense, led by WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Griner.
The game also served as further evidence to Moore's dominance. There simply wasn't much the Mercury could do defensively to stop her, though coach Sandy Brondello felt a tad differently. "I think we gave her too many open looks, you can't give a great player open looks," Brondello said, in response to the WNBA MVP's superb second half performance.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve later added, "At this point in the season, it's about players making plays and stars being stars." One thing is for sure, Moore is a star and she made pivotal plays when it mattered most; flexing her MVP muscles in the process.
Now, the Lynx will head back to Phoenix for a deciding Game 3. That will be aired on Tuesday at 9 pm CST on NBATV.