When you have a franchise as prized as the Minnesota Lynx, narrowing down the team’s most memorable games is no easy task.
And when a basketball legend who’s as decorated as Maya Moore belongs to that franchise, the task becomes much more challenging.
But in an attempt to fill our sports void during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox Sports North has committed to the challenge of picking eight classic Lynx games that will air through Thursday, June 25. The history vault was opened on Sunday, May 15, when FSN televised Lindsay Whalen’s 14-assist game against the L.A. Sparks.
Next up: Maya Moore’s 40-point game against the Phoenix Mercury.
The game, which was originally played on Sept. 27, 2015, will be re-aired on Sunday, May 24, at 6 p.m., but let’s set the scene before we all tune in to relive one of the many moments of Moore’s greatness.
The game came during the 2015 Western Conference Finals in which the Lynx had taken Game 1 with a 67-60 victory, but history reminded the Lynx Phoenix wouldn’t slump out of the playoffs quietly. In 2014, the Mercury ended the Lynx’s streak of playing in the WNBA Finals by defeating Minnesota 96-78 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Mercury were without Dianna Taurasi — the star of the 2014 Western Conference Finals — in 2015 due to the former MVP’s decision to sit out the entire season, but Phoenix’s remaining star power of Britney Griner, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree couldn’t then and, as a rule of thumb, should never be overlooked.
At the start of the series, the media levitated toward the matchup of Lynx’s newly-acquired Sylvia Fowles vs. Brittney Griner, one that fails to disappoint five years later. But when the star centers limited each other’s impact on the series, Moore rose to the challenge for her team.
Moore recorded a team-high 19 points in the Lynx’s Game 1 win, but as we’ve seen many times in her career, she took her game to the next level when another trip to the Finals was on the line.
Moore didn’t waste any time letting us know she didn’t intend to return to Minnesota for a Game 3. She was aggressive early on, recording nine points in the first quarter on 4-for-7 shooting and recording just six fewer first-quarter points than Phoenix’s entire team.
When Phoenix found an offensive answer in Griner in the second quarter and outscored Minnesota 26-16, Moore kept the Lynx afloat by recording 11 second-quarter points on just six shots, hitting three of her four 3-point attempts.
Moore sat at 20 points at halftime while her team was tied 41-41 with its hosts.
It was later reported by the Star Tribune’s Jack Magruder that Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said Moore looked like a “tired boxer” at times during the second half, but we all know fatigue rarely impinged on Moore performances.
The Lynx trailed 59-58 at the start of the fourth quarter after Moore recorded 11 of her team’s 17 third-quarter points, but the greatest test of her resilience would come in the final frame.
Neither team garnered more than a three-point lead and combined for 10-for-27 shooting in the fourth quarter. Phoenix took its final two-point lead with 54 seconds remaining in the game when Bonner hit a 14-foot jump shot, but 16 seconds later, Moore would sink two free throws to tie the game at 71-71.
Moore sat at 39 points at this point in the game, but her most heroic play of the night may have come with just five seconds remaining on the clock. Phoenix had just come out of a timeout and was looking to set up Griner for a game-winning shot.
Moore had other plans.
She disrupted Phoenix’s play by deflecting a pass, scrambling for the loose ball and drawing a bonus foul on Noelle Quinn with 1.5 second remaining and the game still tied at 71-71.
As Moore approached the free-throw line, she could have been more concerned with her own personal, playoff scoring record. Instead, she sunk the first free-throw to give her team a 72-71 lead but intentionally missed the second to let the game clock wind down and crush any chance of Phoenix forcing a Game 3.
We often think of the banner-raising, Finals wins when we think of the greatest moments in Lynx history. But those moments aren’t added to the lengthy Lynx highlight reel if not for games such as Moore’s 40-point night, where wills are tested and greatness radiates.