WASHINGTON (AP) —WNBA Finals MVP Maya Moore was in top form in her first regular-season game since leading the Minnesota Lynx to their second title in three seasons.
Moore had 34 points and nine rebounds and the Lynx opened with an 89-77 victory over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.
Seimone Augustus added 24 points for the Lynx. Minnesota led by 17 in the first half, but trailed for the first and last time at 66-65 early in the fourth quarter. Moore’s 3-point play with 8:14 remaining started an 11-1 run.
“It’s a matter of who keeps their composure and executes when things get hard like that,” Moore said after making three 3-pointers, 9 of 11 free throws and finishing one point shy of her career high. “This team has been battle-tested.”
First-round picks Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, stars on Connecticut’s undefeated team that won the NCAA title in April, made their debuts with Washington against their former teammate.
“She’s an unbelievable player,” Dolson said about Moore. “She’s fun to watch, but not fun to play against.”
Lindsay Whalen had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Lynx. Minnesota outrebounded Washington 44-31.
Ivory Latta scored 25 points with a career-high seven 3-pointers including six straight in the second half for the Mystics. Latta scored 16 of Washington’s 23 points in the third quarter and made 7 of 9 3-pointers overall.
“When we got the lead I thought maybe we had turned the tide,” Mystics second-year coach Mike Thibault said.
Washington’s reserves, led by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt’s 17 points plus 10 combined from Dolson and Hartley, outscored Minnesota’s 33-6. The second unit sparked a comeback in the first half. The Mystics committing eight of their 11 turnovers in the second half hurt their winning chances.
“We made our own mistakes, but the effort particularly that second group in the first half that got us back in the game and brought some order out of the chaos was good,” Thibault said.
Minnesota has reached the WNBA finals three straight times, winning twice. The Lynx could become only the third team to repeat as champions.
“Championship is a long way off, but we want to play like every game is a championship so that if we get that opportunity we’ll be ready and we know again what if feels like (to win) this season,” Moore said.
Notes: Jelena Milovanovic, playing her first game with the Mystics, was helped off the court in the second quarter and later diagnosed with a right knee strain. … Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal sat courtside a day after Washington was eliminated from the NBA playoffs.
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