Comfortable Moore emerging as Lynx leader in Year 3

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2013 - 11:28 AM

Maya Moore led her team in scoring and steals and met most of her personal goals, set in the preseason, to be a more efficient shooter.

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Minnesota Lynx's Maya Moore (23) defends Seattle Storm's Shekinna Stricklen in the first half of a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Seattle.

Photo: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press - Ap

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Two lousy free throws.

Maya Moore was on the Lynx practice court the other day, shaking her head, frowning.

This, in itself, is news. Watch Moore operate on a basketball court and you get a lesson in stoicism. Whether she’s dropping threes, scoring in bunches or dealing with difficulty, Moore’s mien rarely changes.

But, this day, there’s a frown.

Moore sets goals and is used to reaching them. You don’t become the best player in college basketball, the WNBA’s top draft pick and an Olympic gold medal winner by settling. So, before this season, she and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sat down and talked about some individual goals. Moore came up with three: 40, 50, 90.

She wasn’t worried about how many points she scored, but how she scored them — efficiently. She wanted to shoot 40 percent or better from three-point range, 50 percent or better overall, and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

Check, check and …

“Just needed two more,” Moore said, noting that two more made free throws would have done it. “Oh, well.”

She’ll live. Thursday night in Los Angeles, Sparks forward/center Candace Parker won her second MVP award, edging out Moore in the closest voting since 2005.

But the ultimate reward is still out there. Friday night the Lynx (26-8) begin their best-of-three Western Conference semifinals against Seattle (17-17), looking to reach the league finals for the third consecutive season and win their second title.

The Lynx remain a balanced, skilled, veteran bunch. But, more and more, Moore is leading the way. In her third season, Moore has put up career numbers in just about every area. She led the Lynx in scoring (18.5) and steals (1.74) and was second in rebounding and assists. She fills up a stat sheet like she fills up a hoop — efficiently, stoically, surgically.

“I feel more comfortable in my third year,” she said. “I know the rhythm of the season.’’

Cool efficiency

The efficiency jumps out at you. Moore became the first player in WNBA history to lead the league in three-pointers made (72), and three-point shooting percentage (45.3) in the same season. She shot 50.9 percent overall.

She led the Lynx in scoring 13 times, in rebounding eight times, in assists five times. She scored in double figures in 31 of 34 games, had 16 games with 20 or more points and 30-plus twice.

She was the Western Conference player of the month in August and September, when she averaged 20.6 points over 17 games. Thirteen times this season, Moore scored 10 or more points in a single quarter.

She can stop and pop, or come off a screen. She can start a fast break or end one. She can operate at the top of the key, in the corner, in the post. As a forward, she passes better than most guards, rebounds better than many centers.

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