Minneapolis – When Maya Moore drained a transition three-pointer with 1:26 left in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game, she added a staredown to it.
It was a look that said that this was her house, and this was her game.
Moore’s basket gave Team Parker a six-point lead, and it turned out to be the eventual game-winner in Saturday’s 119-112 decision over Team Delle Donne, in front of a raucous crowd of 15,922 at the Target Center.
Shortly after the final buzzer, the Minnesota forward was named MVP for the third consecutive All-Star Game behind her 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“It’s crazy,” Moore said. “It really is, to be fortunate enough to be in positions to continue to win, to be playing well, to be healthy, to be here, and obviously to do it here in front of our home fans, friends, family is so special, and makes it even more special.”
Dallas center Liz Cambage put the finishing touches on the win when the lane cleared in the closing seconds, for a crowd-pleasing dunk.
“I’m getting old now. I’m not early 20’s no more,” Cambage joked. “It took a lot for me. I went to pull up and shoot the three, but Candace (Parker) told me to go dunk it.”
The closing plays capped an energetic day that saw plenty of laughs and camaraderie between players for much of the game.
“A Minnesota fan high-fived me, and I was like, whoa, this is the All-Star Game,” said Parker, who plays for the Lynx rivals Los Angeles Sparks. “…Their support for their team, and that’s the main thing in the WNBA, when we have fans, even if they’re against you, they rally behind their team. I respect it. So it was fun. It was a great All-Star Game. They did a great job putting it on.”
The game got off to a humorous start, as Team Parker won the tip and point guard Chelsea Gray briefly started heading to the wrong basket. Cambage took over at the point guard position for several plays, and helped the team mount a small lead. Moore knocked down a fadeaway jumper along the baseline for a 10-7 lead, but Team Delle Donne then ran up the next seven points to take control. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart drained a smooth jumper for a four-point edge, which was the margin by the end of the first quarter, 31-27.
Las Vegas rookie A’ja Wilson turned heads in the second period, as she went on a scoring run that earned her 18 points by the end of the night, through soft jumpers and open layups. The only member of the loaded 2018 draft class to play in the game, Wilson said she enjoyed every minute.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wilson said. “Of course we didn’t get the win, and I love to win, but all and all it was a lot of fun being out there with no pressure and playing the game that I love.”
Wilson’s surge gave Team Delle Donne a 41-29 lead, but Moore helped tighten the gap before halftime. She capped an 8-0 spurt with an offensive putback, and then a half-court alley oop pass to Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry. Later, Moore found Chicago’s Allie Quigley for a three and McCoughtry for a fadeaway before connecting on a layup herself, cutting the Team Delle Donne advantage to 54-50 at the break.
Quigley showcased her sharpshooting at halftime, defending her three-point contest crown from last year with another one to back it up. She finished with 21 points in the first round, earning her a spot in the finals alongside Las Vegas’ Kayla McBride’s 22 points. The two bested Washington’s Kristi Toliver (20 points), Seattle’s Jewell Loyd (19), Atlanta’s Renee Montgomery (18) and Indiana’s Kelsey Mitchell (15).
In the finals, McBride hit a money ball buzzer-beater, which tied Quigley at 18 points, to force a tiebreaker round. Quigley caught fire in the rematch and put up 29 points, breezing past McBride’s 21 for the title and earning $10,000 for her favorite charity: the Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship.
“It’s for my dad,” Quigley said of the scholarship. “He passed away when I was young. He went to this high school that it’s going to go towards, and so did I. It’s just for underprivileged kids that aren’t able to maybe have the money to go to this school. It’s just a nice scholarship that I’m able to give back. It means a lot.”
“Every time, even last year, I think about him right before I start shooting. That’s probably the reason that I’m able to win it.”
Dallas guard Skylar Diggins-Smith sparked a Team Parker run in the third quarter. She found Parker inside with a dime and knocked down a three-pointer on the next possession for a 58-56 lead.
Soon after, Cambage hit a three from the top of the key, and Moore then added a jumper to cap an 8-0 spurt that vaulted Team Parker ahead 70-64.
Gray showed off her behind-the-back ball handling in transition, freezing the defense and finding McCoughtry on a cut with a no-look dish that set up an easy layup. The difference expanded when Moore scored on a give-and-go with New York’s Tina Charles, and Team Parker had an 84-78 lead through three.
Connecticut guard Chiney Ogwumike pushed the fourth-quarter lead to 14 at 101-87 when Diggins-Smith found her for a layup, but Toliver kept Team Delle Donne in contention by putting on a downtown clinic. She hit a pair of triples – part of her game-high seven treys – to trim an 11-point deficit to five, and then she found Washington teammate Elena Delle Donne for a corner three that brought the team within two at 108-106.
“Those guys are just encouraging me to shoot the ball,” Toliver said. “Syl (Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles) was setting screens, Dan (Team Delle Donne head coach Dan Hughes) drew up some stuff, D (Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi) was finding me. It was a lot of fun, this experience.”
Moore’s late-game shot did earn a three-point response from Toliver – her last of the day, which tied an All-Star Game record. The triple gave her a game-high 23 points, but it wasn’t enough to steal the MVP crown from Moore.
“You’re just playing,” Moore said of her fourth-quarter mindset. “You’re feeling it out, making moves in rhythm, and fortunately there’s not the level of defensive pressure that there ordinarily would be, and so a lot of times we’ll make it. (I) just wanted to either make the pass, hit the shot, get the rebound, those little things make a difference in the fourth quarter of an All-Star Game.”
Moore also became the All-Star Game’s all-time leader in points (119) and made field goals (48). She is the only other player besides Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie to be named All-Star MVP three times and she is the first to win three in a row.
“It’s one of those things you keep showing up, keep doing what you do, doing what you love to do,” Moore said. “Fortunately we win the game because you can’t get MVP if you don’t win the game. It’s been amazing.”
And since the All-Star Weekend took place on her home court, things were a little sweeter for Moore.
“There’s so many special things that happened over the course of these two and a half days,” she said. “…The turnout was beautiful to look around. It just felt good in there.”