Maya Moore insists it is not part of a specific plan. She did not sit down at some point during the offseason and decide she was going to score more.
“I’ve always looked to score,” insisted Moore, the Lynx’s star forward.
But the numbers tell a different story. Moore, the WNBA’s first overall pick in the 2011 draft, has begun her third season in a rush of slashes to the basket, pullup jumpers and three-pointers. And while there are ups and downs in any season — witness Moore’s super-efficient game against Phoenix on Thursday and her relative struggles Sunday at Washington — Moore is clearly more aggressive in her approach.
In the season-opening victory over Connecticut, Moore hit her first five shots — two midrange jumpers, a tip-in and two three-pointers — had nine points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half on the way to 26 points. Against Phoenix, Moore scored 19 of her 22 points in the first half; the game was so one-sided that she didn’t play much in the second half.
Things weren’t quite as efficient Saturday in Washington. Like the rest of the Lynx, Moore struggled from the field, going 6-for-17. But she was 4-for-9 on three-pointers, had six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block, leading the team in scoring (22) for the third consecutive game before fouling out in the final two minutes.
All this evidence points to a player who has become the ignition for the Lynx’s offensive machine.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sees a player, in her third season, coming into her own.
“That’s the neat part, to see the evolution of a player,” Reeve said. “Maya has had two years of the WNBA, two years of playing overseas. So now, she really has an understanding of what she needs to do to take the next step. The name Maya Moore comes with a lot of expectations. I think now she’s fulfilling some of those ideas people had.”
As a much-heralded rookie playing on a Lynx team filled with world-class talent, Moore averaged 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for a team that won the league title. Last season those numbers rose to 16.4, 6.0 and 3.6. After three games this season Moore is averaging a league-high 23.3 points per game, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists. She is shooting 50 percent (9-for-18) on three-pointers.
“I’m seeing a very confident, calm approach to the game,” Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said of Moore. The two have been teammates on the Lynx and in the Olympics. “She is in a rhythm right now, and that’s so impressive. She’s getting her scoring from different areas. She’s not just settling for jumpers, she’s doing a little bit of everything.”
On a Lynx team filled with talent, no one player is going to assume complete control of the offense. Seimone Augustus has been nearly as explosive as Moore, and Rebekkah Brunson has been good as well. Indeed, Moore’s points have not come at the expense of team play; in the victory over Phoenix, the team tied a franchise record with 30 assists.
But Moore is definitely more aggressive in her approach.
“I know when I’m aggressive I’m going to be able to get a shot or create a shot for a teammate,” she said. “Just having another year in the system at the WNBA level, knowing how the offense works, I know what we’re trying to get. I know the spots I can get to to create things. I know it will get tougher. Teams are going to get better, teams will scout each other and offense will be tougher to get. But I’m not going to give up when it gets hard.”
• Brunson’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort Saturday capped off a strong week that earned her Western Conference Player of the Week honors.