INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore had plenty of time to make the final shot. The Minnesota Lynx had to wait a whole lot longer to celebrate the winner
The Minnesota star hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Lynx to an 80-77 victory over the Indiana Fever on Friday night in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
Moore, who finished with 24 points, took the inbounds pass at the top of the key with 1.7 seconds left, moved to her right to elude Marissa Coleman and hit the winner. The Lynx had to wait several nail-biting moments as the referees huddled around a monitor at mid-court before saying the shot was good.
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”(1.7) seconds is a lot of time,” Moore said. ”I’m a basketball junkie, watch basketball a lot. … Everything fell on the line, did what I could. It was a basketball move and I was able to get it off. Fortunately I have a pretty quick release and it worked out. I haven’t seen the replay yet, when I let it go I knew I got it off.”
Moore was hard-pressed to remember the last-time she hit a buzzer-beater. She had to go back to her AAU days when she hit a winner for her Georgia team to win a championship.
”It’s been a while, I know that,” she said.
That shot ended a thrilling game that both coaches said was one of the most entertaining in WNBA Finals history and gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
”It was an unbelievable basketball game,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ”Might be one of the best WNBA finals games in our history. That one’s got to be up there. Two teams that had great offense and just delivering blows to each other.”
Game 4 is Sunday night with Minnesota trying to win its third title in five years. The team that has won Game 3 has won 70 percent of the titles since the WNBA went to a best-of-five format in 2005. Indiana is trying to become the first No. 3 seed to win a title. The first 18 championships were won by either one or two seeds.
”It’s a long series, no one’s won anything yet,” Moore said. ”Looking forward to Sunday, but glad we were able to do it with this game being ours.”
These two teams played in the finals in 2012, which Indiana won for its lone title. After splitting the first two games that season, Indiana routed Minnesota in Game 3. This one was a much tighter contest.
As had been the case in the first two of the games in the series where each team won by six points, this one came down to the end. Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth quarter. Minnesota trailed 77-74 with 2:08 left before Renee Montgomery hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 77 with 1:11 left.
Both teams missed shots over the next 40 seconds before Indiana had the ball with 25 seconds left. Shenise Johnson’s jumper from the corner was partially tipped with a few seconds left and the ball went out of bounds giving Minnesota one last chance to win in regulation, which Moore took.
”That was a great player making a great play at the end of the game,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. ”I’m proud of how hard we fought.”
Moore didn’t do much in the first three quarters after playing just 12 minutes because of foul trouble. The 2014 MVP scored 12 points in the final period to lift the Lynx. Seimone Augustus added 13 points, and Montgomery had 12.
Johnson finished with 17 points to lead Indiana. Tamika Catchings added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
”We have to stay together as a team,” Catchings said. ”We fought really hard and we did some really good things. That last second shot, if it doesn’t go we go to overtime. It’s a heartbreaker to lose like that.”
Moore helped Minnesota build a 28-21 early in the second quarter and was playing well before she picked up her third foul and sat the rest of the half.
With Minnesota’s star on the bench, Indiana got going on offense. Catchings started a 14-6 run with her first basket of the game. Johnson had nine points during that spurt, including a 3-pointer which made it 37-34 and gave the Fever their first lead since early in the first quarter.
That shot capped a 9-0 burst in the run and brought the crowd of 16,332 fans, which included Paul George and many members of the Indiana Pacers, to their feet. George, C.J. Miles and Pacers coach Frank Vogel bought 1,500 tickets for this game for fans.
Indiana led 42-38 at the half.
During the second quarter Indiana honored former stars Katie Douglas and Tammy Sutton-Brown, who helped the Fever win their lone title in 2012. They were given framed pictures during a timeout in the second quarter.
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