It was the kind of number that demanded a second look — or even a third — just to make sure it was real. In the first half of Sunday’s loss to Los Angeles in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Lynx forward Maya Moore had no points.
Moore entered the game averaging 25.7 points in the playoffs, and she averaged 18.7 against the Sparks in three regular-season games. Sunday, the Sparks held her without a basket on four first-half shots before Moore hit seven of 10 in the second, finishing with 18 points.
That extended her career total to 268 points in the WNBA Finals, vaulting her past Diana Taurasi for the most in league history.
“It was kind of the flow of the game,” Moore said. “It’s a long game. However it gets done, it gets done. I don’t necessarily try to force something if it’s not there, but I’m always trying to be aggressive and make the right play, whatever that looks like.”
The Sparks used several players to try to contain Moore, including Essence Carson in the early part of the game and Alana Beard in the late stages. Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said that was necessary against a player he called one of the best in the world.
“I thought there were times we did a pretty good job of guarding her, and she still hit shots,” Agler said. “She’s that good of a player.
“We tried to make it difficult for her. It’s not an easy task. Not one person can do it. You sort of have to have a team concept to try to corral her a little bit.”
WNBA: trending up
In a media conference before Game 1, WNBA President Lisa Borders said the league is thriving as it winds down its 20th season. Still, she wants all 12 teams to be “operationally sound and financially stable” before the WNBA considers expansion.
The league improved upon last year’s numbers in all major areas, including attendance, TV viewership, merchandise sales and social media presence. It announced total attendance of 1.56 million, its highest since 2011, and an 11 percent increase in viewership over last year on ESPN and ESPN2. ESPN’s telecast of the season opener between the Lynx and Phoenix drew 505,000 viewers and was the league’s highest-rated regular-season game on the ESPN networks in five years.
Merchandise sales on the WNBA’s website rose by 30 percent to record levels. Subscriptions to WNBA League Pass, which livestreams games outside of home markets, increased 24 percent.
“The league is in the best shape it’s been in for a very long time,” Borders said. “We’re headed in the right direction. We’ve got to do more of what we’ve done this season.
“What I do not want to do is have a spike in growth, and then a crash. So we will take our time [with expansion]. There’s no rush.”
The Sparks won back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002, but this year’s appearance in the Finals is their first since 2003. Sunday, the WNBA honored 20 of its greatest players at halftime of Game 1, including Sparks center Candace Parker and former Sparks great Lisa Leslie.
Parker said it was inspiring to have Leslie and other stars watching at Target Center. “[Leslie] had some words during the ceremony for me,” Parker said. “Everybody being there kind of motivated us to play our best.”
Moore and teammates Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen also were honored, as was former Lynx player Katie Smith.