Maya Moore leads Minnesota Lynx to WNBA playoffs -- again

Taking the court
Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore takes the court before their game against the Phoenix Mercury in Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, July 31, 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

When the spotlight is on Maya Moore, she usually steps up.

Last week, the Minnesota Lynx star put up nine points in the final four and a half minutes in a come from behind win over the Chicago Sky.

It's been a big season for Moore. She's the WNBA's leading scorer and set the league record for most 30-point games in a season.

"Maya in her fourth year is about as complete a player as you can see," says Cheryl Reeve, the coach of the Lynx. "She'll tell you she's still go some things to work on, and that's great. Her expectations of herself are greater than what any one coach or player can put on her."

Moore's play is one reason the Lynx are headed to the playoffs again, for the fourth time in as many seasons.

Raised in Missouri and Atlanta, Moore says her mother Kathryn inspired her work ethic.

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"Just watching her go to work every day as a single parent, putting food on the table and going to work," Moore said. "No excuses. You go to school, you do your job and, she's still a big part of my life right now and helping me out with the business side of things."

Moore's hard work helped lead her suburban Atlanta high school to three state championships.

Cheering on her teammates
Maya Moore cheers on her teammates from the bench during a 75-67 Lynx win over the Phoenix Mercury in Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, July 31, 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

At the University of Connecticut, Moore led the Huskies to an NCAA-record 90-game winning streak. She was the top overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.

Between her UConn days, the Lynx' two championships and even an Olympic gold medal, Moore has earned many trips to the White House and this comment from President Obama: "Basically there's like a Maya Moore wing at the White House. And when she comes we've got all her stuff here, she's got a toothbrush."

Moore says her faith guides her on and off the court. She's active with Athletes in Action, a Christian sports organization

"There's a bigger picture other than getting everything that I want," Moore said. "Wanting to make sure that I'm shining light or bringing life to every situation I'm in. What kind of teammate am I? How do I treat my coaches? How do I treat the referees? All those little things. How do I interact with someone who's a fan? How do I spend my time off the court?"

On the court, Moore has much more on her shoulders this season, as several key players have been sidelined by injury.

"People just kind of coined her as a three point shooter early on in her career, but now you see her mixing it up," said teammate Seimone Augustus. "She can shoot the jumper. She's attacking the basket. But people fail to talk about her defense and how well she's kind of improved on that end."

Dancing with fans
Maya Moore dances with young fans following a 75-67 Lynx win over the Phoenix Mercury in Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, July 31, 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News Columnist Mechelle Voepel has followed Moore from college through her WNBA career. She says Moore is great for the league. "When people watch her I think it's a level of skill and athleticism that is great for marketing the game," said Voepel.

After Thursday's win, Moore danced with young fans at center court. They crowded in around her, asking her questions and giving her high fives. Nine-year-old Noelle Murray of Edina watched the Lynx game Thursday night with her basketball team.

"I try to make the right passes like she does and dribble like she does and do all the great moves that she does," Noelle said. "It helps me focus on what I really need to do."

The Lynx have three regular season games left. The team hosts Los Angeles Tuesday night.

Moore is considered a top candidate for the league's most valuable player award.