PHOENIX – Maya Moore scored a season-high 38 points, including a clinching jump shot with four seconds left, as the Lynx defeated Phoenix 80-75 on Saturday night for their seventh consecutive win at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The victory also clinched the season series for the Lynx, who won two of three games with the Mercury. That gives the Lynx (14-10) the tiebreaker with Phoenix for seeding in the WNBA playoffs.
Moore, named the WNBA’s top player during the ESPYs on Wednesday, had 18 points in the first quarter alone — one shy of her own team record — and 24 by halftime. The forward had averaged only 11 points in her past seven games.
Asked about those struggles and her big game, Moore said on the Lynx radio postgame broadcast that the league season is “a long journey and I have to be able to stay the course. … We had good energy coming in as a group.”
Danielle Robinson, who didn’t start at point guard but played almost 32 minutes, had 16 points for the Lynx, while Seimone Augustus added 15.
“When Maya plays the way she was, she creates open opportunities for other people,” Augustus said. “We just wanted to be aggressive and try to put some pressure on the defense.”
DeWanna Bonner led the Mercury (15-10) with 29 points. Stephanie Talbot had 15 and Diana Taurasi, before being ejected midway through the second quarter, had 14.
“It was definitely a wild one. In games like this, you have to be able to execute,” Moore said. “When it’s wild and the energy is going everywhere and it’s hard to get a rhythm in either direction. Once again, I think our defense had to hold us in it.”
Phoenix took a 12-6 lead in the opening quarter. But the Lynx used a 14-2 run, with Moore scoring all her team’s points, in the last 3½ minutes of the first quarter for a 24-17 lead. She was 4-for-9 from the field, and 9-for-9 from the free throw line — a team record — that quarter.
Lindsay Whalen, who bumped heads Wednesday with an Indiana player, started the game but played only 3:19 of the first quarter before being replaced by Robinson. Whalen played only five more minutes the rest of the game and was scoreless.
The Lynx’s lead shrunk to 40-38 by halftime partly because their two post players — Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson — had only two points. Fowles played under 10 minutes because of foul trouble. She picked up her fourth foul two minutes into the third quarter and finished with four points, the same as Brunson.
The Mercury had their own trouble with officials, midway through the second quarter both coach Sandy Brondello and Taurasi received technical fouls. Taurasi was thrown out as well.
The Lynx outscored Phoenix 29-16 in the third to take a 69-54 but were outscored 17-7 in the fourth. The Mercury closed within 76-75 on Talbot’s layup with 1:13 left.
But on the Lynx’s next possession, Robinson made a pullup jumper to make it 78-75.
“There were moments where our emotions got away from us,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “but I thought overall being in such a hostile environment we did a good job. I’m proud of us. That was not an easy win for us to get.”
“This win definitely feels good,” Moore said, “but we’re still hungry.”