Balanced Lynx top Parker, Sparks to advance to West finals

Leave a comment

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore had 20 points and eight rebounds to help the balanced Minnesota Lynx advance to the Western Conference finals with a 91-80 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 3 of the conference semifinals Tuesday night.

Moore was just 6 for 21 from the floor, but Seimone Augustus added 16 points and Deveraux Peters scored 12 big points off the bench to push the top-seeded Lynx into their fifth straight conference finals. They will play Phoenix, which swept Tulsa in the other semifinal. Game 1 is on Thursday night in Minnesota.

Candace Parker had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Sparks, who haven’t been to the conference finals since 2012. They trailed by 14 points in the first half but rallied to cut the deficit to one in the fourth quarter.

The Lynx responded with a 9-0 run to hold off Los Angeles.

Minnesota improved to 18-2 all-time at home in the postseason, the best record in WNBA history.

Just like everything else this season for the Lynx, who won two championships in three seasons before losing to the Mercury in last year’s conference finals, nothing came easy in this series. They edged the Sparks by two points in Game 1, were beaten convincingly in Game 2 in Los Angeles and had a runaway in Game 3 get a little too close for comfort in the second half.

The Lynx entered the season among the favorites to get out of the West and only bolstered those odds when they acquired Sylvia Fowles from Chicago midway through the season. But injuries to Augustus and Lindsay Whalen made it difficult for them to forge any kind of continuity heading into the playoffs.

After dropping Game 2, the Lynx were in danger of a massively disappointing first-round exit entering the elimination game.

Moore and Augustus struggled mightily in the early going, shooting just 2 for 13 in the first quarter.

But the suffocating Lynx defense squeezed Parker and the Sparks. Los Angeles shot just 26.7 percent in the first quarter and turned the ball over 10 times in the first 13 minutes to fall behind by 14 points.

Parker was whisper quiet in the first half, rendered ineffective by Rebekkah Brunson’s physical defensive presence. She didn’t hit a shot until 90 seconds into the second quarter and didn’t hit her second field goal until there was less than two minutes to play in the half.

She came alive in the third quarter, scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting to bring the Sparks roaring back. Her two free throws with just under nine minutes to go in the game cut the deficit to one, but the Lynx scored the next nine points and Parker gave them another one when she picked up a technical foul for arguing with the officials that gave Minnesota a 75-67 lead with 3:30 to play.

AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.