With grim determination, focus and a big, red welt growing above her right eye, Lynx forward Maya Moore made some history Saturday night at Target Center.
Moore shook off a first-quarter collision with teammate Seimone Augustus that left her with five postgame stitches. She dealt with relentless defense from a variety of New York Liberty players. And she still scored 30 points, leading the Lynx to a gritty 87-82 victory over the Liberty.
Moore became the first player in WNBA history to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games. Afterward, with a bag of ice on her eye, she admitted that making history shouldn’t be this painful.
“This is kind of overwhelming,” said Moore, who hit on 11 of 19 shots, five of eight three-pointers, and all three free throws while doing what nobody has done before.
“I’m not thinking about it too much,” she said. “I’m just out there playing, worrying about helping my team win. Obviously, it’s awesome to be able to score so much. It’s been really fun.’’
It appeared the Lynx (4-0) might roll over the Liberty early. Moore made her first four three-point attempts and had 12 points. The Lynx led by 10 when, at the end of the first quarter, Augustus and Moore collided near midcourt going for a loose ball. Both stayed on the court, clutching their heads.
Coach Cheryl Reeve said she remembered thinking, “How in the heck will we score?”
For a while, the Lynx didn’t.
With Moore and Augustus on the bench, the Liberty came from 12 points down to take a three-point halftime lead. That lead grew to four early in the third quarter before the Lynx started to click on offense again.
After scoring just two points in the second quarter, Moore had seven in each of the final two. Her final points came on a cut to the basket with 3:13 left when she took a pass from Janel McCarville and scored to give the Lynx a 79-73 lead.
The postgame joke was that the only WNBA player capable of slowing Moore down was Augustus.
“You have to use your head,” joked Augustus, who had to be checked for a concussion before going back in the game. “Any time you see someone in a zone like she’s been in the last four games, it’s amazing. To see how she’s playing, knowing that people are coming in with the strategy of stopping her? Nobody has figured out how to do it.”
It wasn’t a one-player victory, though.
Lindsay Whalen scored 21 points (11 with Augustus and Moore out of the game), hitting critical free throws down the stretch. Augustus had 18 points and rookie Asia Taylor had 10 points and four rebounds, all in the fourth quarter.
But it was Moore who led the way, again. Afterward Reeve called Moore her big Band-Aid. The Lynx are 4-0 despite key injuries and some frustratingly (to Reeve, anyway) bad team defense. Saturday the Lynx were outrebounded and outmuscled in the paint at times.
“We’ve got the biggest Band-Aid in the league in Maya Moore,” Reeve said. And about Moore’s record? “That goes back to some really prolific players,” she said. “And Maya just took her place at the top.”
Before the game Reeve — who used to be an assistant to Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer when both were winning titles in Detroit – said she knew the Liberty would do everything they could do to deny Moore the record.
Then she joked: “I want Maya to be able to walk off the court, look over at Bill and go like this,” she said, putting her thumb and index finger to her forehead in the “loser sign.”
Well, Moore got 30, but she forgot to do that last part. “The loser sign? Yeah, slipped my mind,” she said.
Said Reeve: “Maya is classier than I am. I would have done it.”