Moore scores career playoff-high 33 to lead lynx past Sparks

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MINNEAPOLIS — When Maya Moore is at the top of her game, she is simply unstoppable.

Moore scored a career playoff-high 33 points to help the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx beat the Sparks 67-65 Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference semifinals series.

“She’s tough for everyone to contain every night,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said.

Moore took over in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and giving the Lynx a lead as big as 12 points, before Los Angeles clawed back into the game late.

“We’re constantly trying to make our own runs and make the next big play,” Moore said. “I was the beneficiary of some active plays in our paint. We got deflections, got tips. I just try to be aggressive and see what happens.”

Seimone Augustus, back after missing the last eight games of the regular season due to a foot injury, added 17 points for the Lynx.

“I died in the first two or three minutes,” Augustus joked of her return to the lineup. “Once I got into the groove it all felt normal and it felt like I was back.”

Candace Parker had 16 points and nine rebounds and Nneka Ogwumike added 14 points for Los Angeles.

The Sparks used a 9-0 run to pull to 61-60 on Jantel Lavender’s layup with about 5 minutes to go. However, Moore’s fast-break basket gave Minnesota a three-point lead with just over a minute to play.

Los Angeles had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Parker missed a shot under the basket as time expired.

“We didn’t run it perfectly but we got the action we wanted and got Candace coming to the ball on the move,” Agler said. “She took a shot she can make. Hindsight is 20-20 and you think about a lot of things that could’ve happened, but sometimes you’ve got to let players make plays.”

Dominated by Minnesota in the opening quarter and trailing 22-15 after 10 minutes, the Sparks flipped the script in the second quarter. They started with a 14-1 run and led by as many as eight. Minnesota, which made just four of its 14 shots from the field in the quarter, managed to chip away late, but Los Angeles led 36-33 at halftime.

Moore led all scorers with 12 points at the break. Parker and Kristi Tolliver led the Sparks with nine points each.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday at Long Beach State due to the Emmy Awards taking place near Staples Center. Sparks players bristled at the idea that they will lose their home-court advantage playing away from their normal arena.

“It’s not neutral,” Ogwumike said. “It’s still L.A., and we’ve played there before. It’s a home game.”

AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.