Tuesday, not long after finding out she had gotten more WNBA All-Star Game votes than anybody else, Maya Moore talked about the latest of many honors that have come her way.
“It’s great to be honored and appreciated by people across the world,” said Moore before the Lynx game with Los Angeles at Target Center. “I want to make sure I’m playing as well as the accolades I’m getting.’’
Struggling with her shot much of the night, Moore helped lead a fourth-quarter explosion that turned a three-point deficit into an 83-72 Lynx victory. Moore scored 16 of her 30 points in the fourth quarter, hitting five of six shots, all five of her free throws and a late three-pointer — her only one of the game — to seal the deal as the Lynx (14-6) improved to 8-1 at home.
Unlike Sunday, when the Lynx sputtered late in a loss in New York, the Lynx came together and got tougher in this one after the Sparks (7-11) ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run to take a three-point lead into the final quarter.
“I loved how hard we played, how tough we played,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We liked that, when we got down, how we responded. We got closer, tougher as a group. We wanted our trust in each other to go up a notch, and that’s what happened.’’
Leading the way was guard Lindsay Whalen. On a night when the Lynx struggled to rebound — the Sparks had an incredible 20-1 edge in offensive rebounds — she came one rebound away from her second points-rebounds double-double as a Lynx.
“We weren’t as tough as we needed to be [in New York],” she said. “Tonight we wanted to be as tough as possible.”
Tough teams shake off eight-point third quarters and a difficulty with a tall Sparks front line by dishing a season-high 27 assists, with six players getting three or more. Whalen scored 16 points and Janel McCarville had 14 with seven rebounds and five assists.
And tough players such as Moore shake off 6-for-17 shooting through three quarters (0-for-5 on threes) to take control when it matters most. Reeve said the best thing that happened to Moore was that she realized her three-point shot was broken for the night and decided to score in other ways.
“When doors close you try to find another that opens,” Moore said.
So she scored 11 points in a 17-6 run that turned a tie game into a 79-68 lead on her two free throws with 1:39 left. All her points came from in close.
“Way too much Maya Moore,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said.
That was more than enough to slow the Sparks, who had five players in double figures, led by Jantel Lavender’s 17 points. The Lynx held the Sparks to 25 percent shooting in the crucial fourth quarter.
In All-Star voting, Moore edged out Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne for the most, getting 28,398 votes.
Moore entered the game averaging career highs in points (22.8), steals (2.1) and rebounds (8.0). That is due to her needing to do more with the Lynx dealing with injuries; guard Seimone Augustus missed her fourth consecutive game because of bursitis in her left knee and forward Rebekkah Brunson, has yet to play after preseason surgery on one of her knees.
Moore has needed to do more, but has found opposing teams making it ever harder for her to do it. And yet, Tuesday, she managed her franchise-best seventh 30-point game of the season.
Not a bad way to celebrate yet another All-Star Game berth.
“Not bad, not bad,” Moore said. “I’ll take it.”