Unable to hit an open jump shot late in the close game, Lynx forward Maya Moore remained undeterred when a second chance came.
Moore’s 15-footer off a loose-ball scramble as the shot clock was running down provided a one-point lead the Lynx never relinquished against Chicago. Their 74-64 victory Thursday at Target Center in front of an announced crowd of 9,222 boosted the Lynx’s winning streak to a season-best 11 games.
“I saw the ball got loose, and I grabbed it,” Moore said. “I knew the shot clock was running down but I was not going to give up. I’m glad it rolled right in there.”
Late-game flare didn’t improve Minnesota’s place in the Western Conference standings, however. Phoenix maintained a 1 ½-game lead with an overtime victory Thursday at San Antonio.
Thursday’s results set up a tantalizing matchup as defending WNBA champion Minnesota plays Saturday night at Phoenix. The teams last met on July 31, a 75-67 Lynx victory that stopped the Mercury’s 16-game winning streak, the second longest in WNBA history.
Lynx center Janel McCarville said her team did not look past Chicago: “You know what’s coming, but Chicago is what we had in our sights.”
The Lynx held the Sky to its lowest first-half point total of the season. Defense played a role, but Minnesota’s 30-24 halftime advantage also reflected inconsistent play by both teams. Chicago, riding a three-game winning streak, shot only 24.4 percent the first 20 minutes; the Lynx grabbed only one offensive rebound.
Sky coach Pokey Chatman said she remained “pleased with the tale of the first half. The shots we were getting were quality shots.”
Chicago’s shots fell after halftime, most notably when the ball left guard Epiphanny Prince’s hands. She scored eight consecutive Sky points en route to 11 of her team’s 22 in the third quarter and validated pregame concerns about her from Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
Taking a 46-44 edge into the fourth quarter, Chicago ran into another player with a hot hand. Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen scored six consecutive points to give Minnesota a 52-50 lead.
The teams traded punches from there, tying the score three times.
Moore’s desperation shot made the score 65-64 with 1:18 left and stood as the appropriate answer to Chicago’s determination. But the grind-it-out game asked more of its participants.
Sky guard Allie Quigley, who led all scorers with 20 points, drove for a layup but the ball did not fall. The missed opportunity was magnified by Minnesota’s 11-0 run to close the game.
“We just crumbled,” Quigley said. “Against that team, you can’t play anything less than 40 minutes.”
Then Whalen steadied a teetering Lynx possession by hitting a 12-foot jumper for a 67-64 lead with 38.2 seconds to play.
“The play breaks down and it’s just chaos and all of a sudden you have the ball and you catch and shoot and don’t think,” Reeve said. “Maya made one and Whalen made one that were back-breakers for them.”