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Moore Hopes History Doesn't Repeat Itself For WNBA's Lynx, UConn Women

Does this sound familiar?

A talented team expected to win a championship loses on a last-second shot after reaching the cusp of a title. Maya Moore lived that scenario in the 2016 WNBA Finals, when her Minnesota Lynx fell in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Sparks on a basket by Nneka Ogwumike with 3.1 seconds left.

In the spring, Moore witnessed similar heartbreak involving her alma mater. UConn, chasing its 12th NCAA title, lost to Mississippi State in overtime on a buzzer-beating shot by Morgan William in the national semifinals.

So the aftermath is the same for Moore's current team and former team. The Lynx marched through the season, compiling the best record in the league before advancing to the WNBA Final for a rematch with Los Angeles. And the Huskies, motivated by falling short, will enter this season as favorite to win it all.

Moore can't wait to watch.

"I love the experience these young ladies get to go through," Moore said by phone Friday. "It's really ironic how it's almost identical of my experience here with the Lynx, of coming so close, being expected to win and losing it on a last-second shot. So I can really relate to this group of girls coming in this season and bouncing back and having that adversity.

"I'll be following them close and hopefully will be able to catch a game to two. Really excited to see how they respond."

Moore and the Lynx begin the finals Sunday as the franchise chases its fourth title. While the Lynx (27-7) had the best record in the league, the Sparks (26-8) were just a game behind.

The rematch is great for the league and Moore is embracing the matchup.

"It's definitely fun, knowing we've been the best two teams the last two seasons," Moore said. "It's just exciting to know the best are going to be playing each other. That's all you want in a championship match, the best playing the best and the best team wins. … It's exciting, to get a chance to compete again against the team that got the championship last year."

The loss last season was devastating, but Moore said the team moved on as the season began. Led by league MVP Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota had its eyes fixed on another title.

"It's something we'll never forget, but our motivation is so much deeper than last year's loss," Moore said. "It was extremely heartbreaking last year and the offseason of being that close to our fourth title, just having it go right through our fingers like that. This year, I think, our motivation … there's many levels to it. Just the people that make up the team this year motivate us. We have players that have never won a ring and we them to experience that journey. We've worked so hard this season. … Just wanting to have the reward for all the hard work and things that we've overcome this year, the highs and lows, the bumps and bruises, everyone giving their best against us."

Moore averaged 17.3 points this season. Over the final seven games, she averaged 20.1 points and shot 50 percent.

"I feel great," she said. "I definitely feel probably the best I've felt all season, coming into this postseason. Just really excited to be ready to go and feeling good."

Moore was part of the gold-medal winning Olympic team last summer. She did not play in China over the winter, instead working out and resting for the WNBA season.

At age 28, she is still working on elevating her game. The 2014 WNBA MVP is roundly regarded as one of the best players in the world, a level she achieved while still wearing a UConn uniform.

But she's still refining her game.

"A lot of people assume that just because you were successful at something one year it that it's automatically going to happen the next year," Moore said. "They don't really understand how much work and preparation and time that it takes to maintain those things that you were excellent in the previous years. That's been one of the processes for me this year, just continue to try to do the things that I'm great at and do those with excellence, while at the same time adding little things mentally and physically that can make me an even greater threat when I'm out there. Just continue to make great decisions with the ball, just trying to be as pesky as I can and reliable on defense. Those are the things that make me great."

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