Storm forward Breanna Stewart, a reserve for the West, finished with nine points, six assists and six rebounds. Bird added eight points with her record number of dimes.
Before Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game, Maya Moore, a five-time participant, fielded a slew of questions from the eight first-timers on the Eastern Conference team about how hard they should play in the midseason exhibition.
The Minnesota Lynx star told them the level of intensity is “somewhere in between shootaround and the regular season. That’s the lane.”
“That was the wisdom that I dropped,” Moore said after draining 23 points, including five three-pointers, to lead the West to a 130-121 victory on Saturday.
“It was fun,” said Moore, who claimed her second straight MVP trophy. “I thought it was a great pace. You never want anyone to get hurt, but you also want to play with a certain intensity and show off your athleticism and we did that.”
The star power in the stands, which included Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, Sonics greats Fred Brown and Gus Williams, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas and U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, nearly eclipsed the performance on the floor.
However, the WNBA stars delivered a satisfying spectacle that included an ample amount of highlights and limited doses of defense in front of 15,221 at KeyArena.
There was a deluge of three-pointers — 25 to be exact — the most combined points in All-Star history and a breakout performance from Jonquel Jones.
Making her first All-Star appearance, the Connecticut Sun center scored a game-high 24 points and provided the highlight of the day — a breakaway dunk in the final seconds.
“I just wanted to go out, have fun, be safe, but still play hard,” Jones said. “So it was great to be able to go out there and play against some players that I’ve watched growing up and looking up to. Now I’m on the same court as them.”
Few knew what to expect from a youthful East team that included just three All-Star returners and led by Connecticut coach Curt Miller, who was making his All-Star debut.
“I certainly had no clue, but they were hanging with us in that first half and maybe surprised us a little bit with how they got up and down the floor,” said Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, who finished with 12 points and five assists. “But you can’t sleep on us old vets. We know how to play this game.”
The star-studded and veteran-laden West team, that included just two All-Star first-timers, went into halftime tied 64-64 before breaking the game open in the third.
With Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike scoring eight of her 22 points in the period, the West outscored the East 32-21 and led 96-85 heading into the fourth.
“The game kind of played out like I thought it would,” said Los Angeles center Candace Parker, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the West. “Experience matters in this league. We made a run and that was pretty much it. … After that, it was about finishing out and putting on a good show.”
The only suspense in the fourth was who was going to claim the MVP: Moore or Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA regular-season MVP.
“Obviously, we know what Maya can do and I think that’s amazing to be able to play with her and against her is an honor,” said Ogwumike, who outdueled Moore and Minnesota in last year’s WNBA Finals.
Both scored eight points in the fourth, including a crowd-pleasing three-pointer from Moore after she ripped the ball away from Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes to seal the win.
“Maya is always going to be Maya and that’s what that is,” said Storm forward Breanna Stewart, who was voted a captain for the West team and finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists. “She put on a show for the people, especially at the end.”
Seattle’s Sue Bird had eight points and an All-Star Game record 11 assists in her record-tying 10th appearance. Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson added 12 points while Los Angeles guard Chelsea Gray had 11.
The East received 14 points from Indiana’s Candice Dupree, Atlanta’s Layshia Clarendon, who also had 10 assists, and Chicago’s Allie Quigley, who won the three-point contest at halftime.
“There is nothing like playing the game, getting out on the floor, laughing, joking, kind of letting loose,” Moore said. “The pressure is off a little bit. So those moments are sweet that you carry with you going into the second half of the season.”
Sue Bird’s All-Star introduction