Maya Moore picked up a ticky-tack foul on the Lynx's first defensive possession 30 seconds into Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday night.
Her night went downhill from there.
"In the two years that I've coached her, any time she gets in early foul trouble, it's not really going to be that good of a night for her," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Tonight was no different."
That rather blunt assessment pretty much nailed Moore's ill-timed no-show performance in a 76-70 loss to the Indiana Fever at Target Center.
Moore looked uncharacteristically rattled as she battled foul trouble and erratic shooting on a night when the Lynx curiously failed to match Indiana's intensity.
Moore drained a deep three-pointer and made three free throws in the final 80 seconds. But it was too little, too late.
For the game, she needed 14 shots to score 14 points. She hoisted 10 three-pointers and made only three. Her offense looked laborious, disjointed. She forced the issue early, resulting in a couple of careless turnovers, and then never found her rhythm.
Give Indiana some credit for that, but Moore just looked completely out of sorts from that first foul on.
"It's not ideal, but I've got to play through it," she said. "I just have to be smarter next time and continue to be aggressive."
Moore is the Lynx's most talented and versatile player, and she had scored 20 points in each of their previous three playoff games. She's proven she's capable of carrying her team on any given night. But her contribution Sunday barely made a ripple. That can't continue as this best-of-five series progresses.
Moore scored a career-high 29 points against Indiana on Sept. 17 and tied a WNBA record by making five three-pointers in the third quarter. The Fever insisted nothing was done differently against her Sunday. Defenders tried to crowd Moore on the three-point line, hoping to get the ball out of her hands or force her to put it on the floor.
"She's a great shooter," said Shavonte Zellous, who drew the primary assignment of defending Moore. "If she makes one, she's rolling. If she doesn't make any, she's going to keep shooting."
She did just that, but she couldn't get on track.
"We just missed a lot of shots and didn't take advantage of open opportunities," Moore said. "I can remember a handful that I was involved in. I just have to settle down and knock them in."
And stay out of foul trouble.
Moore had as many fouls (three) as points in the first half and also turned the ball over twice in nearly 15 minutes of play. She looked exasperated in the second quarter when the officials didn't call a charge on Erlana Larkins after she banged into Moore on a layup. Moore was whistled for her third foul on a reach-in on Zellous on a fast break with 3:14 left in the half.
Moore had a brief flurry at the start of the second half that hinted she might take over. She drained a deep three-pointer from the wing and then blocked a shot at the other end. She followed that sequence with an athletic left-handed tip-in off a rebound.
But she went quiet again until the final few minutes. She had three layups blocked under the basket and picked up her fourth foul on Tamika Catchings' three-point play that gave Indiana a 70-62 lead. Moore threw up an out-of-control layup that clanged off the backboard on the Lynx's ensuing possession.
It was that kind of night.
"Indiana is a very aggressive defensive team, and they're going to make it very hard for us to get into a flow," Moore said. "By the time you're in the Finals, nobody is going to be able to get their first option, so you're going to have to grind it out and just make a play. I'm going to continue to do that."
The guess here is that Moore explodes in Game 2 on Wednesday. She's too talented offensively and too competitive to struggle like that again. Of course, it might help if she doesn't pick up a foul 30 seconds into the game, too.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org