INDIANAPOLIS – Maya Moore’s brilliance this postseason has not been any kind of revelation. The 2014 WNBA MVP and 2013 WNBA Finals MVP is arguably the best players on the planet.
In these playoffs, as you’d expect, she’s been dominant. She’s the playoff leader in scoring (26.1 PPG), which is nearly six points more than her regular season average. In the WNBA Finals 2015 presented by Boost Mobile, she’s averaging 23.3 points and nine rebounds per game. Simply put: When the stakes are high, Moore rises to the occasion.
During Game 3, she spent much of the evening in foul trouble. The Lynx were forced to go to its bench for much of the third quarter while Moore sat with four fouls. Minnesota, however, was able to keep the game within reach by the start of the fourth.
And then it was Maya time. Moore scored five quick points to begin the final quarter and initially it seemed like she may put the Lynx on her back in the final frame. But Indiana stood tall and battled back and forth with Minnesota, forcing the game to be decided in the final minute.
Indiana came up short on its opportunity to move ahead with under 25 seconds left, and the Lynx rebounded the ball with 1.7 second left on the clock. 1.7 seconds. Not a lot of time? No, plenty of time. Especially for Maya Moore.
“1.7 seconds is actually a long time,” Lynx head coach Chery Reeve said.
For Indiana, 1.7 seconds felt like an eternity. Moore drained the game-winning bucket over the outstretched arms of Fever forward Marissa Coleman.
“I thought [Moore] had a nice little escape dribble,” Reeve said, “got herself collected, and had about as good of form that you can have. So it was a very poised moment for Maya.”
Moore’s late-game execution hasn’t always been characterized by poise. Like any star, there’s a growth process involved. Early in Reeve’s time coaching Moore, there were missteps and mishaps. The otherworldly superstar proved human.
“What I told her was that I’ve been with her since her rookie year,” Reeve said, “and early on in Maya’s career she used to be one of my worst players at executing a last-second shot. She used to lunge and try to draw a foul tonight. Just didn’t have a lot of poise about her. That was about as poised as I’ve seen her.”
“The closing out of a game with a few seconds left is a really hard thing to do,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of pressure. People are definitely going to be focusing on me because I am an offensive threat. So year by year, Coach Reeve has put me in those situations in practice, and I’ve gotten a little bit better, a little more poised.”
Moore has had the benefit of growing up as a player alongside another all-time great in Seimone Augustus, who has hit her fair share of big shots. Moore credits a lot of her growth in late-game execution to time spent watching Augustus calmly knock down big shots.
“Getting a chance to watch Seimone do it,” Moore said. “[Coach Reeve] will put me in a situation and I’ll not do so well, and she’ll put Seimone in a situation, and I’ll watch the poise that Seimone does it with. And I remember those memories from my rookie year, my sophomore year, second year. Just really admiring [Seimone]. Especially Seimone. She is one of the most poised shot-makers, so I have a little bit of an advantage to learn from her, and that’s exactly what you saw today.”
“I’m just proud of her growth over the last five years to this point,” Augustus said of Moore. “She didn’t start off like this. She’s blossomed into this great player now that we can count on in clutch situations like this. You give her the ball and you know something’s going to happen. I’m just grateful.”