This was what Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had hoped for.
OK, so not necessarily the tension and indigestion that came with a back-and-forth, punch-and-counterpunch 84-77 victory over Indiana on Saturday at Target Center.
But this kind of game — tight, physical, intense. Close in the final moments, a game waiting for a team to take over. The Lynx are trying to get playoff-ready, and Saturday’s game was playoff-like.
“It was, I guess, what you would label a signature win,” Reeve said.
And one that carried Maya Moore’s autograph.
Moore scored a career-high 35 points — the most points scored in a WNBA game this season — including 11 in a fourth quarter in which the Lynx, finally, went to another level. Moore and Seimone Augustus (17 points) combined for 18 of Minnesota’s 23 fourth-quarter points, including all of them in a 10-0 run that broke open a tie game late, sending the Lynx (20-7) to their second consecutive victory. They never trailed but never seemed to be in complete control.
Until the end.
“This is a good game for our team,” said Moore, who made 15 of 21 shots and had eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks. “Coach Reeve was saying in the locker room how that’s the kind of games you need. We’d get a lead, they’d cut it back. We had to chip and scratch and claw for everything. To finish out the game strong in the fourth quarter was really good for us.”
And it’s further proof that the Lynx might be past a tough stretch in which they struggled to finish games, losing four of five.
That changed Saturday. On a night when the bench scored just four points, the Lynx got strong play from all five starters. Center Janel McCarville hit two three-pointers, scored 12 points and had five rebounds. Point guard Lindsay Whalen scored nine points with nine rebounds and seven assists. Indiana (12-15), still hampered by injuries, got 22 points from Tamika Catchings, 19 from Shavonte Zellous and 11 from Layshia Clarendon.
The game plan was to feed Moore and Augustus and let them operate against the Fever’s smaller defenders. And it worked. The last of five ties in the game was at 72. It came not long after Moore was called for a flagrant foul, when Jeanette Pohlen hit a three-pointer with 5:25 left.
Finally, the Lynx put it away. Moore came down and hit a contested three from the corner. Then Augustus hit a 17-footer. After another Fever miss, Augustus scored, was fouled and hit the free throw. Moore’s 18-footer with 2:49 left completed the run. She finished with the most points by a Lynx player since Augustus had 36 in a playoff victory over Atlanta in 2011.
The victory increased the Lynx lead in the Western Conference to 1½ games over Los Angeles. After the game Fever coach Lin Dunn said the Lynx and L.A. were the two best teams in the league, period.
“We were talking about this in Connecticut [on Thursday],” Augustus said. “We hadn’t had that game where we felt we took it to the next level. I think this was the game.”
A signature win. The game was the team’s annual Breast Health Awareness game, so the players wore pink jerseys. After the game those jerseys, autographed, were auctioned off to fans, with proceeds going to breast cancer research. A total of $26,150 was raised, with Moore’s No. 23 fetching the most — $6,750, or about $193 per point.