The Unstoppable Maya Moore
NEWARK, NJ - Maya Moore is a force to be reckoned with.
This past Saturday she put up a staggering stat line of 35 points (career high), 4 steals, 2 blocks and 8 rebounds going into full-blown video game mode as the Minnesota Lynx beat the Indiana Fever 84-77.
"I wasn't really thinking about it too much when I was in the flow of the offense and the game," Moore said while stretching her leg on the scorer's table moments before the team's next game against the Liberty. "I was just trying to stay focused on one possession at a time. I found that we play best when we're focusing on the moment."
As the team geared up for action against New York on Tuesday, the Lynx squad weighed in on Moore blossoming into not only the team's leader but her emergence as one of the league's undisputed elite players.
"She's grown," Coach Cheryl Reeve said looking on as Moore went through some pre-game drills. "It's her third year and she's becoming more of a vet. Maya is a very smart player with a strong will to win and a great work ethic."
Maya's will to win has been evident since she came into the league in 2011. Prior to drafting her, the Lynx were a struggling franchise that went six years in a row without making the playoffs. In 2010 the team was 13-21. When the Lynx selected Moore as the No. 1 pick in 2011, the Lynx went 27-7 and won the franchise's first WNBA championship.
The Lynx went 27-7 again in 2012 but came short in their quest to repeat losing to the Indiana Fever in the Finals.
"It was very frustrating to show ourselves to be the best team all year and not finish that way in the playoffs," Moore said. "Indiana played awesome - hats off to them. They did what they needed to do."
Moore did anything but take the loss lying down. In the offseason, she played basketball in China, leading the Shanxi Xing Rui Flame to the China Women's League Championship. She averaged 38.6 point per game including an explosive 60-point effort in one contest.
She's riding that meteoric wave of success into this season. Statistically she's improved in just about every category from last year including scoring (18.1 ppg), rebounding (6.4) steals (1.8 spg), blocks (1.0 bpg) and her field goal (50%) and three point (44 percent) shooting is up too.
"I think she's had an unbelievable year," teammate Lindsay Whalen said. "Her leadership, her defense, her shooting has gone up and it's been really fun to play with her. As a point guard, it's nice to know you have players on your team like her to get the ball to."
Moore's teammates said her importance to the team can't be measured in mere stats. Her relentless effort rubs off on the rest of the squad and drives the team's rock-solid chemistry.
"She's a very capable player and she wants to do the best every time she steps on the floor," teammate and under-the-radar All-Star Rebekkah Brunson said. "She's really determined to give us everything she has and do whatever it takes for us to win. That's showing she's grown up a lot from last year to this year. And she's going to continue to grow."
"She just came in with a great mindset all season," Whalen added. "She's really taken her game to another level these last couple of weeks too. She's had some really special games."
Now that the Lynx are again at the top of the Western Conference and have already clinched a playoff spot they are poised to reach the WNBA Finals for the third straight year in a row. The only teams to ever make it to the Finals three or more times in a row were the Houston Comets (1997-2000) and the Detroit Shock (2006-2008). Will Moore and the Lynx do it too?
Moore said the team isn't thinking about the Finals, let alone the playoffs, considering there are still plenty of games left in the season.
"I found that we play the best when we are focusing on playing in the moment," Moore said. "We still have a couple of teams being pretty close on our tails record-wise. So we're just going to continue to play hard and focus on capturing that Western Conference."