It was as if the regular season had been a prelude, and the Lynx’s first-round playoff series with Seattle a warm-up.
For Maya Moore, the anticipation, the excitement had been building. So when the Lynx took the Target Center court last week for the first game in their Western Conference championship series with Phoenix, it was like Moore was being launched from a cannon.
“She’ll tell you the first five minutes of that Phoenix game, she just blacked out,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “because there was so much adrenaline.
“Now, she played like it,” Reeve said, laughing. “That’s why we had to take her out.’’
After Moore worked through her adrenaline rush, she went out and spent the rest of the series taking it to the Mercury. She hopes that will continue against Atlanta, with the Lynx poised to begin play in the WNBA Finals on Sunday at Target Center.
In her third season, Moore’s play at both ends of the court improved to the point where she finished second in the league’s MVP voting. And after averaging a career-high 18.5 points during the season, she has upped that to 21.5 points in four playoff games. She is shooting more often and more accurately in these playoffs than at any time of her three-year WNBA career.
“The playoffs are the most fun time of the year,” Moore said. “Everything you’ve worked for is wrapped up in the game you’re playing at the time. From the minute September comes, you’re waiting for the playoffs to come.’’
Though she hasn’t yet been as deadly from three-point range as she was in the regular season, Moore is shooting 52.4 percent overall and her scoring average is the second-highest in the league this postseason.
On the other end? Moore has nine steals in four games, a 2.25 average per game second only to Atlanta star Angel McCoughtry’s 2.6.
“I’m trying to do the same thing — be aggressive,” she said. “During the playoffs we’ve heightened our preparation, focused more on the details, which has helped me. My mental game is solid. I’m confident. And my game out here is more free.’’
And now it’s the finals — right where Moore and the Lynx wanted to be.
And Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 4 in Georgia will be a homecoming of sorts for Moore. She led Collins Hill High School of suburban Atlanta to wins in three state championship games on the same floor that the Lynx and Dream will play on once the series changes venues, The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
“This is going to be the best week of the season, for sure,” Moore said.