Saturday night at Target Center, in front of an announced crowd of 6,503 that had more to cheer about as the game went on, the Minnesota Lynx lost a game but found a point guard:
In a tumultuous week with significant roster churn, Jefferson signed with the team Friday. She got in one practice and one shootaround. And then she went out Saturday and scored 16 points with five assists. She got the Lynx offense flowing. She kept the ball moving.
"Seems point guard isn't that hard," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve joked. "Don't overthink it. Just show up and play. Moriah gave our team confidence. It let our team settle in and do what they usually do. That position was taking care of."
And it was almost enough against the defending WNBA champions, who, with the backcourt of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley finally healthy, turned back the Lynx late, 82-78.
Yes, the Lynx are 0-4. But his one felt different from the first three. The moving ball found a lot of scorers, with four Lynx players scoring in double figures, led by Nikolina Milic's 18 off the bench. The Lynx, susceptible to opponents' runs to start the season, were able to stop the bleeding.
"That was progress for our team," Reeve said. "We'll never accept a moral victory. But anyone who has been watching us could see it was a big-time progress game."
And here is the biggest reason: Jefferson.
Much like a season ago, when Layshia Clarendon helped turn things around with their arrival after an 0-4 start, the impact Jefferson had was immediate. She was 5-for-7 shooting. She made all three of her three-point attempts. She picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, but Reeve left her in. "She looked at me and yelled, 'Stop fouling,' " Jefferson said. "I was like, 'OK.' "
She didn't foul again.
"For me it was about being aggressive,'' said Jefferson, who ran a stripped-down Lynx offense. "Being a leader on defense and offense. Putting people in position to be successful. I thought it would be more hectic and crazy. But my teammates did a good job of accepting me.''
With the combination of Jefferson and Evina Westbrook off the bench, the Lynx did a good job on the perimeter, one reason the Sky was held to 40.6% shooting.
Minnesota was down 14 midway through the third quarter to a Chicago team that finished with five players in double figures, led by Emma Meesseman (17) and Vandersloot (16).
But Milic and Jefferson scored five points each in a 12-6 run to end the quarter, pulling the Lynx within eight. Then Minnesota scored the first six points of the fourth — including the first two points of Westbrook's WNBA career.
And it was game on.
The Lynx pulled within two twice in the fourth. And then, with 52.8 seconds left, Sylvia Fowles took a pass from Westbrook and scored and it was a one-point game, 77-76.
The Lynx did not get over the hump. At the other end, Vandersloot hit what turned into the winning three-pointer.
The Lynx, who have struggled at the free-throw line, made just 14 of 23 attempts. But they were in the fight. And there was a big reason.
"I was telling her today — before we even played, 'cause we were able to practice two times with her — that we can already see a difference," Powers said of Jefferson. "Our fast break is fast now. She can see the floor. And she's a penetrator. She makes things happen for us at the offensive end."