MINNEAPOLIS — The only Maya Moore deterrent Saturday night was some friendly fire.
And even that couldn’t slow down the early WNBA MVP candidate for long.
Starting off scorching before recovering from a nasty first-quarter spill, the Lynx superstar became the first player in league history to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games. Moore and fellow wing heroine Seimone Augustus left briefly after colliding at the end of the opening frame, but both returned to help Minnesota to an 87-82 triumph over New York at the Target Center.
"You’ve got to use your head" to stop Moore, Augustus quipped. "Some people haven’t figured that out yet."
Less than 24 hours after dropping a career-high 38 points on Tulsa, Moore scored 30 on 11 of 19 shooting, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. The 6-foot, 176-pound forward made four straight 3s to start the contest and had 14 points in the first quarter alone.
So did the Liberty, which — to little avail — focused its defensive game plan on stifling Moore via physical jostling and frequent double-teams.
But fantastic turned to frightening when Augustus and Moore bonked heads chasing an offensive rebound just before the first-quarter buzzer. Both lay on the floor momentarily then walked toward the bench in visible agony.
The top of Augustus’ dreadlock-covered head had collided with Moore’s right eye. Reeve initially feared the worst, especially with starting power forward Rebekkah Brunson and key reserves Monica Wright and Devereaux Peters already out indefinitely with knee injuries.
"I needed an ice pack for my forehead at that point," Reeve said. "I’m thinking ‘how the hell are we going to score?’"
Neither Moore nor Augustus showed concussion-like symptoms, though, and both returned midway through the second quarter. In the meantime, point guard Lindsay Whalen took over and scored 11 of her 21 points while the team’s other two Olympians shook off the cobwebs.
"We were fortunate; that looked really bad," Reeve said, then added in a pun. "Seimone’s got the dreads to stop it a little bit."
Said Augustus, who walked away with nothing but a small, red bump on her forehead: "She’s got jokes. . . . It’s possible that my dreads stopped something."
It took her a while to re-establish a groove, but Moore eventually reheated in the second half, scoring seven points in each of the final two frames. A fierce driving layup with 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining accounted for her 29th and 30th points.
In the first two games of the season, against Washington and Connecticut, Moore had 33 and 34 points, respectively.
"We’ve got maybe the biggest Band-Aid in the history of the league right now in Maya Moore," Reeve said.
Head-to-head run-ins with teammates aside, the Lynx (4-0) showed notable grit in their second of three games in four days. The team flew out from Tulsa early Saturday morning, was forced to take a connecting flight through Dallas, and didn’t arrive until 11 a.m. After a few hours of napping, they were at the Target Center for pregame warm-ups.
New York (1-2) hadn’t played in a week.
"I told them ‘don’t listen to all you guys,’" Reeve told reporters afterward. "The media talked for the entire week about what a demanding schedule, woe is us, can’t believe three games in four days, how do you handle it? (Our players) had to read it, had to hear about it, and we talked about you guys don’t know what you’re talking about."
And Moore led the way, infuriating the Liberty defense for a second straight Twin Cities trip. The last time they were here, she scored 28 and played late during an 88-57 drubbing, prompting Laimbeer to complain Reeve — a former assistant of his in Detroit — left Moore on the floor too long.
Before Saturday’s game, Reeve told Moore to play well enough that she could throw Laimbeer an L-shaped "loser" sign on her forehead while walking off the floor. Moore declined.
"Maya’s classier than I am," Reeve said. "I would’ve done it."
Instead, Moore grabbed the microphone from the Lynx’s in-game emcee and thanked a crowd of 8,323 for its support. In the locker room after receiving some postgame treatment, she was a little more coy when asked about Reeve’s pregame request.
"It must have slipped my mind," Moore said with a grin, holding an ice pack over the five stitches next to her right eye.