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Inside the W: 2018 All-Star Game Delivers Unforgettable Moments

MINNEAPOLIS – On a day when the WNBA’s all-time record holders in scoring – Diana Taurasi, rebounding – Rebekkah Brunson – and assist leader – Sue Bird – took the floor at the same time, it was fitting that it would be Taurasi, who owns the league’s scoring, 3-point shooting and field-goals records, would drop the first shot into the net at the WNBA All-Star Game in the Target Center.

It was equally fitting that Bird, one of the most unselfish players in league history, would laugh at the prospect of a wide-open 3-pointer in the first half and mouth the words, “I don’t want to shoot it again.”

And it goes without saying that Brunson, who has won more titles than any individual player in WNBA history with five, would tangle up in a little good-natured defensive battle with her own Minnesota Lynx teammate, Seimone Augustus.

“It’s history right there,” said Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, playing in her first All-Star Game. “They are still playing better than most of us in our 20s.”

A boisterous crowd of 15,922 watched history from the start – with a collection of players that included six WNBA MVPs – to finish, when Maya Moore became the second player in history to be named the game’s Most Valuable Player for the third time and set the league record for scoring in the All-Star game with an 18-point, 8-rebound, 6-assist game that was a perfect representation of the versatile, unselfish all-around star that Moore is.

This day, which saw Team Parker win, 119-112, over Team Delle Donne, will be remembered in broad strokes, more than for its specific moments, as most All-Star games are.

It will be remembered for a Minnesota crowd that showed up for this special occasion in the same enthusiastic, joyful way that it shows up for its championship Lynx franchise on a regular basis.

It will be remembered for a new format, in which the East vs. West rivalry was eschewed for a mixed-up pair of rosters that put some star players on the same team for the first time ever.

“I really enjoyed playing with some players I’ve never played with before,” said Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker, who captained the Team Parker roster.

And it will be remembered as a shooter’s day. Ninety-one … let’s say it again … 91 3-point shots were taken at the Target Center on Saturday. Why bang around in the paint when you can bomb away unguarded, after all?

Team Parker finished the game with 15 3-pointers, led by Chicago sharpshooter for Allie Quigley, who finished the game with four treys after winning her second consecutive 3-point shooting contest at halftime.

Kristi Toliver, the Washington Mystics guard, playing for teammate Elena Delle Donne on Team Delle Donne, finished the game with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 23 points. Toliver said she was encouraged to shoot in the second half as Team Delle Donne got behind by double-digits before closing the game in the final minutes.

“I mean, we certainly wanted to win, but those guys are just encouraging me to shoot the ball,” Toliver said. “Syl [Fowles] was setting screens, [coach] Dan [Hughes] drew up some stuff, D [Diana Taurasi] was finding me … I usually do shoot pretty well in this building.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, an effort that also included 3 3-pointers. Diggins-Smith said the game was a great opportunity to relax in a condensed season that has taken its toll on the players and teams.

“To be on a break, to kind of let our hair down and just have fun with it, it was a break we needed,” Diggins-Smith said. “I know I needed it.”

Sylvia Fowles, the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, joked that shooters are allowed to dominate the All-Star game, while the post players dominate the regular season. She’s not really kidding. Five of the last six league MVPs have been post players.

“I have to work on my 3-point shot for next year,” Fowles said, laughing as she walked down the hallway back to the locker room.

Liz Cambage, the 6-foot-8 Dallas Wings center, who last week set the league’s single-game scoring record with 53 points against the New York Liberty, said she wants 3-point shooting champion Quigley to be her perimeter shooting coach.

“For real,” said Cambage, who made a 3-pointer in the game. “I want to be able to splash a three like this one. She is amazing. We need some big girls in the 3-Point Contest.”

Loyd said players like Taurasi, Bird and Brunson are her idols and players whose games and habits she tries to emulate as she emerges as a star in her own right for the first-place Storm.

“Sue is one of the best people to follow behind,” Loyd said. “It’s awesome. It’s history right there. They are all still playing so great, not playing like their ages, you know?”

And there are lessons to be learned from them all.

“Oh, for sure,” Loyd said. “I try to learn things from each one of them. If you put them all together, you’d make a super player. Somebody like Maya.”

Somebody like a three-time MVP hoisting a trophy in her hometown.

“I’m so proud to be on the Minnesota Lynx right now,’’ Moore said on the court after being named MVP. “This team, and you guys, as fans, have done some amazing things. I really appreciate how you people celebrated these awesome women behind me.’’

That is what Moore, and everyone else who was in the building Saturday, will remember.

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.

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