Near the end of a second half nobody on the Lynx could explain, her team clinging to a three-point lead, Maya Moore came off a screen, was given the ball by center Sylvia Fowles, tried to change directions, slipped and fell.
She got up.
Keeping the dribble with her left hand, steadying herself with the right, she launched a 17-foot shot off her left leg that went through the hoop with 44.7 seconds left, essentially icing Minnesota’s 75-69 victory over Washington on Friday at Target Center.
“That was called a slip, a kneepad slide, get back up, crossover,’’ Moore said.
Or you can call it a metaphor.
On a day when Minnesota spent the final 20 minutes stumbling on the offensive end, the Lynx righted themselves and remained tied with Los Angeles for the best record in the WNBA (23-5). Up by 13 late in the first half and by nine entering the second, the Lynx proceeded to shoot 25.9 percent and turn the ball over six times, spending much of the third quarter without a field goal.
But they still beat the pesky Mystics (10-17), who always seem to give the Lynx a hard time.
“We didn’t come out at halftime,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We never came back out. We were gassed really early. Our bench production was subpar. And it just snowballed. But what was most important is finding ways to win these games. We’ll talk about what happened afterwards. But, by whatever means necessary, get the W.’’
Sunday that meant 27 points from Moore, 12 of those coming from the free-throw line, Moore hitting seven of eight over the final 34 seconds. And it meant a spirited performance from Fowles, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds, leading a defense that held the Mystics to 39.4 percent shooting for the game.
All that made up for a Lynx offense that produced just seven second-half field goals.
“I don’t know what happened,” Seimone Augustus said. “We just broke down for a while.’’
Former Minneapolis South High School star Tayler Hill led the Mystics with 15 points, 11 coming in the second half. But she missed a driving layup shortly after Moore’s off-balance shot. Leilani Mitchell had 13 for Washington.
The Lynx and L.A., which beat Dallas 87-79 on Friday, are tied for the league’s top seed. Both have a game Sunday before the teams meet Tuesday in Los Angeles.
That the Lynx struggled to beat Washington isn’t a surprise. The Mystics handed the Lynx a 24-point loss in D.C. in June, Minnesota’s worst loss of the season. Washington had won five of the past eight games between the teams.
Amid shot clock violations and missed shots, the Lynx persevered, hitting 18 of 20 second-half free throws and playing enough defense to get it done. In particular, the Lynx did a good job defending the three-point line, where the Mystics had given them trouble before.
But, ultimately, it came down to Moore’s down-and-up game-clincher.
“That was some Pistol Pete stuff,’’ Augustus said, referring to Pete Maravich.
“Just add it to her list,” Reeve added.
Moore? There was no other choice.
“I refused to let our team get another shot-clock violation,” she said. “Because I think we set a record for them tonight. I just wanted to get a shot up, and I ended up getting it in my rhythm.’’