INDIANAPOLIS – She came roaring around the pick, did Maya Moore.
Two picks, actually. It was, appropriately, a kind of picket fence in the heart of Indiana. Rebekkah Brunson, then Sylvia Fowles, making room for Maya.
With 1.7 seconds left, Moore took Lindsay Whalen’s pass at the top of the key. Time was slipping away, but she took enough of it to fake Marissa Coleman into the air. And then, in order: Moore put the ball on the floor. She set, jumped. She released the ball, the buzzer sounded. The 16,322 fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse went eerily silent as the ball arced through the air.
Swish. Lynx 80, Indiana 77.
It was a marvelous finish to a hard-fought game. Moore, limited to 22 minutes of playing time by constant foul trouble, still scored 24 points. And, in the end, she made The Shot.
Fowles, who was option B if Indiana left her to double-team Moore: “So poised. She focused. All net.”
Renee Montgomery, whose three-pointer with 1:11 left tied the score at 77: “I’m telling you, we’re witnessing greatness right now with Maya Moore. I don’t care which team you’re a fan of. That was a great game. And the way Maya finished it? It’s good for women’s basketball.”
And Coleman: “I should have stayed down. That’s what I should have done differently. I should have stayed down.’’
Both teams brought offense. The Lynx had five players in double figures, Indiana four. Both teams made runs, both teams made stops. But it was Moore who hit the first decisive three-pointer in WNBA Finals history since Sue Bird in 2010, putting the Lynx up 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
“Well, 1.7 seconds is a lot of time,” said Moore, who picked up her third foul early in the second quarter and had to sit, then picked up her fourth early in the third and had to sit again. The Lynx nearly collapsed the first time but persevered the second. Frankly, the story of the game was going to be Moore either way.
Indiana closed out the second quarter on a 14-4 run with Moore on the bench to take a 42-38 halftime lead. But in the third with Moore sitting again the Lynx outscored the Fever 19-13, with key help from the bench, to lead by two entering the fourth.
“I’m a basketball junkie,” Moore continued. “I watch basketball all the time. Those situations, you see so often. Everything fell into line. It was a basketball move, and I was able to get it off. … I haven’t seen the replay yet. I don’t know how close it was. But when I let it go, I knew I got it off.”
Through three quarters Moore played 12:11 and scored 12 points. The fourth? Twelve points on 5-for-7 shooting.
But she had help. The Lynx went with a small lineup again, and guards Montgomery (12 points) and Anna Cruz (10) combined for 22 points, seven assists, three steals and a block. The Lynx hit seven of 13 three-pointers, scoring enough while awaiting Moore’s return.
Still, Briann January’s 15-footer put Indiana up by three with 2:08 left. The teams traded misses, then Montgomery hit her three-pointer. Ultimately, out of a timeout with 16.8 seconds left, the Fever got the ball to Shenise Johnson, who missed an open three-pointer, with the Lynx getting control of the ball with 1.7 seconds left.
Early in her career, Reeve said, Moore wasn’t great in these situations. She’d rush, maybe lunge trying to get a foul. Moore learned poise from Augustus, learned patience from former teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin. “After four seasons … I’m hoping I would have picked up a few things from Seimone,” Moore said.
On the biggest stage, she proved it, making her first game-winning buzzer-beater since high school. Others appreciated it.
“Just a great player making a great play,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “Just a hell of a shot.’’
Said Reeve: “It was like in the movies. Slow-motion. The arena got quiet. I was watching it, and it went through.’’