SEATTLE – The day before Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game at Key Arena, many of the players who would be in the game for the first time in their careers were answering questions about what to expect from the intensity of an exhibition that also happens to feature the best players on the planet.
A whole lot of them said they’d be watching Maya Moore to set the tone. After all, one of the most competitive players in the game, who has a pile of championships to prove it, is probably a good tone-setter.
In fact, when Moore went with a group of players to the WNBA Cares Event, they just came out and asked her.
“They were some questions like, ‘How hard…what’s the deal?’,” Moore said. “I said somewhere between shoot-around and your regular season. That’s the lane. That was the wisdom that I dropped.”
So add another line to Moore’s already-legendary resume – Official Barometer of All-Star Game Intensity. Well, actually, add one more after that…2017 All-Star Game MVP.
Moore, the five-time All-Star who has been on the All-Star team every season since she began her pro career in 2011, led the veteran West to a 130-121 victory over an East team filled with some of the league’s brightest young talent. The two-time All-Star MVP and three-time WNBA Champion finished Saturday’s game with West-leading 23 point, including 5 3-pointers, to go with three rebounds and three assists.
“Yeah, that’s just Maya and whenever Maya is playing the game, she only knows one way, whether it’s an All-Star Game or Game 5 of the Finals and that’s what makes her really, really special,” said West coach Cheryl Reeve, who coaches Moore in Minnesota. “In an All-Star Game, you get a little bit of different personalities out there, different concepts and Maya wants to win the game.”
Moore said she thought the game was played a great pace.
“You don’t want anyone to get hurt, but you want to play with a certain intensity and show off your athleticism and thought we did that,” Moore said.
In fact, when Atlanta guard Layshia Clarendon picked off a pass from Nneka Ogwumike, went to the other end and drained a 3-pointer to pull the East within 96-90 at the start of the third quarter, Moore said it was time to change the tone a bit.
“I think the fourth quarter is kind of the natural place for a this-is-as-intense-as-it’s-going-to-get moment,” Moore said. “Layshia started it off and that cut the lead. So we handled our business.”
Moore had eight points in that final quarter.
But she had plenty of support throughout the game. Nneka Ogwumike finished with 22 points on 11-for-15 shooting with seven rebounds. Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Chelsea Gray and Rebekkah Brunson all finished in double figures.
After the game, Moore collected her MVP trophy and headed back to the locker room. On the way, she was stopped by fans and friends, and even a couple of Washington State women’s basketball players who were completely star-struck to be taking a picture with their idol.
Moore will go back to Minneapolis with her Lynx teammates to continue their quest for another title. The Lynx are 16-2 with 16 games to go and are currently in prime position for one of the league’s top two seeds in the playoffs.
Moore and Minnesota are looking to reach the WNBA Finals for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Moore took a moment after the All-Star celebration to be reminded of the business that needs to be tended to back in a Lynx uniform. Moore admits Minnesota is still carrying the sting of last year’s Finals loss to Los Angeles into every game.
“We carry those things with us to push us forward,” Moore said. “We still feel like we are peaking this season, with Sylvia playing so well. We are focused on really being as good as we can get, because nothing is promised for next year. We want to get everything we can out of this season.”
The All-Star weekend doesn’t quite represent a break, but an opportunity to play for fun, engage the community and experience that Moore said will help her recharge for the second half.
“Yeah, it’s not really a break at all. I think it’s one of those weekends where you appreciate the fact that you’re an All-Star that you’re playing well, you are healthy and you can represent at this point of the season,” Moore said. “We are on the go from the minute we get here. But there is nothing like playing the game, getting out on the floor, laughing, joking, kind of getting loose. The pressure is off a little bit.
“So those moments are sweet that you carry with you going into the second half of the season.”