Going into halftime Sunday, the Lynx up 10 against the Phoenix Mercury in a game to decide the West Conference leader, there was something a little off about Maya Moore.
In the Lynx’s loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, Moore finished 2-for-11 from the floor. Against the Mercury, it appeared she picked up where she left off, scoring just four first-half points on 1-for-6 shooting.
But Sunday, a weak performance from Minnesota’s leading scorer wasn’t going to cut it. In the second quarter, Seimone Augustus left the game with a sprained left ankle and never returned. That meant that everyone, including Moore, had to step up.
Moore is “a player that has great pride in what she’s doing, and doesn’t feel very good to miss five shots like that,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said after the Lynx’s 91-59 victory.
It took Moore only 15 seconds after halftime to begin making up for her teammate’s absence as she received a pass from Lindsay Whalen and drained a three-pointer. Moore finished the game with 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting, 3-for-6 from long range.
With the top spot in the West Conference on the line — something the Lynx haven’t surrendered in almost two years — Augustus helped Minnesota break away early, scoring eight first-quarter points on 4-for-5 shooting. Prior to Sunday’s game, Augustus averaged 19.6 points per game in the Target Center, while averaging just 13 in other arenas.
Augustus was seen walking with crutches after the game, and will have an MRI on Monday. Her injury could be troublesome for the Lynx, who will host Atlanta on Tuesday. The 10-1 Dream own the best record in the WNBA.
The players expressed concern for their teammate’s well-being after the game, but Monica Wright was pleased with how her team fared without Augustus.
“Seimone, huge shoes to fill, especially offensively, and when she went down, we had to regroup,” said Wright, who chipped in a season-high 17 points. “We’re confident in our bench. We always man-up when there is a man down.”
Wright confirmed after the game that she is engaged to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. The two have been friends since high school, and Durant has attended multiple Lynx games this season. But after Sunday’s victory — Minnesota’s 14th consecutive home win — all she wanted to talk about was her team’s success.
“Any time we win there is going to be a celebration,” she said.
Phoenix came into the contest averaging 12.67 turnovers per game — second lowest in the league behind the Lynx. The Mercury had 21 turnovers Sunday, off of which Minnesota scored 26 points. The Lynx shot 45.6 percent from the floor.
Phoenix’s 59 points was its lowest point total of the season. Candice Dupree led Phoenix with 12 points, while Brittney Griner — the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft — had eight.
Diana Taurasi came into the Target Center averaging a league-best 23 points per game. The Minnesota defense held her to just four, causing her first single-digit scoring game of the season. Taurasi appeared frustrated throughout the game, something Moore said was all part of the plan.
The Lynx was “trying to make their leading scorers as uncomfortable as possible,” Moore said. “When we do that together, teams have a hard time scoring against us.”