MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Maya Moore made sure the Minnesota Lynx got an important victory.
Moore scored a career-high 35 points and Minnesota beat the Indiana Fever 84-77 on Saturday night.
Moore’s total is the highest in the WNBA this season. Cappie Pondexter, Angel McCoughtry and Diana Taurasi have each scored 34.
Seimone Augustus had 17 points and Janel McCarville added 12 for the Lynx (20-7), who won for the third time in four games after losing three straight and lead Los Angeles by 1½ games atop the Western Conference.
“We hadn’t had that game where we felt like it took us to the next level, and I think this was the game because we had to grind it out, really had to focus in on each possession and make them count,” Augustus said.
“I guess you could label this a signature win,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
Tamika Catchings scored 22 points and Shavonte Zellous had 19 as the Fever (12-15) fell a half-game behind Washington for third place in the Eastern Conference. Indiana has lost four of five and five of seven.
“When they’re healthy and everybody is playing their ‘A’ game, they’re tough to deal with,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said. “At the end of the day I thought we put ourselves in a position to maybe steal a game, but we had a missed layup here or a stupid turnover there. You can’t fall asleep on any possessions with this team because they’re so good.”
Tied at 72 midway through the fourth quarter, Moore had five points and Augustus four as Minnesota went on a 12-2 run. The duo accounted for 18 of Minnesota’s 23 fourth-quarter points.
“We get a lead, and they cut it back, we had to chip and scratch and claw for everything. To finish out the game strong in the fourth quarter was really good for us,” Moore said.
Moore finished 15 of 21 from the field and had eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
“I wasn’t thinking too much, I was just trying to play and stay in the flow of our offense,” she said.
Moore scored six of Minnesota’s first 10 points in the fourth, the last on a fast-break layup that began when, after a putback of her own miss, she poked the ball free from an Indiana player. The ball went right to Lindsay Whalen who found Moore with a pass behind the Fever defense for a 71-64 lead with 6:57 to play.
“Maya, just down the stretch knocked them down, big shots,” Catchings said. “It’s one thing I was telling them, if you don’t find anybody, find Maya. … Every player on the team has to know who has that hand.”
Minnesota shot a season-high 58 percent and Indiana was at 46 percent. The Lynx held a 44-26 advantage on scoring in the paint.
“That was our focus. Either guard or post we wanted to get it inside, and just try to put the pressure on them not having as big of post or as big of guards as we do,” Augustus said.
Tied at 45 in the third quarter, Moore had six points and Augustus four as Minnesota went on a 14-6 spurt for a 59-51 lead with 2:30 to play in the period, but Catchings answered with a three-point play, Briann January made a 3-pointer and Jessica Breland made a layup to tie the game.
“There was no ‘Oh No’ feeling. Regardless of where we are up or down we didn’t panic” McCarville said.
Wearing commemorative pink uniforms that were auctioned off for $26,150 after the game to support breast cancer research, Moore had 11 points and McCarville eight in the first quarter as Minnesota opened up a 23-21 lead. Zellous had eight points in the period, including two 3s, for Indiana. She was playing in her second game back after missing four games due to plantar fasciitis.
The Fever finished 10 of 20 from beyond the arc, including three each by Catchings and Zellous.
Down by 10 midway through the second quarter, Catchings scored on a jumper and a putback and Layshia Clarendon and Jeanette Pohlen had 3s as part of a 10-2 run to get Indiana to 37-35 at the break.
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