Lynx rally in fourth quarter to top Liberty for second win this season

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS
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There is still so much work left to do.

Tuesday night against New York at Target Center, the Lynx spent long periods struggling to make shots. At times the ball stopped moving.

But, in a game they very much needed to win, they found a way.

Down by eight with 8:43 left in the game, the Lynx rallied for an 84-78 victory over the Liberty, outscoring New York 21-7 the rest of the way.

Aerial Powers scored 18 points, 12 of them from the free throw line. Sylvia Fowles had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Kayla McBride scored 15 — including two free throws with 15.9 seconds left — and Moriah Jefferson scored 12 before an injured finger on her right hand ultimately forced her to the bench.

A 23-6 New York run from mid-third quarter into the fourth had the Liberty up eight.

The Lynx continued to struggle to score, but they defended. And that allowed them to fight back to a 72-72 tie on two free throws by Rachel Banham with 3:58 left. Then Sabrina Ionescu drained a three for New York.

But McBride drove for a score, then stole the ball from Ionescu and fed Fowles for a fast-break layup with 3:15 left and the Lynx led 76-75.

Out of a timeout the Lynx (2-6) got a stop, then Powers was fouled and made one of two free throws. Fowles rebounded the miss, was fouled and made a free throw to put the Lynx up three.

The two teams traded baskets. Then, with 19.5 seconds left, New York's Rebecca Allen was fouled. She made her first free throw but missed the second.

Out of a timeout the Lynx got the ball to McBride, who was fouled with 15.9 seconds left. She hit both free throws to ice the game.

New York (1-5) was led by former Lynx player Natasha Howard (23 points), Allen (21) and Han Xu (11).

The Lynx started out playing with a purpose. The ball was moving, the defense was tight. Powers had a steal, a block and two assists in the opening minutes as the Lynx built a 16-9 lead on Fowles' free throw with 6:07 left in the first quarter.

With the possible exception of small hiccup mid-quarter, when the Lynx allowed the Liberty to cut a seven-point Lynx lead to two, it was a strong quarter. Jefferson scored 10 points, Fowles seven. Shepard had four rebounds and two assists. The Lynx allowed the Liberty to score just two points on the break and get just four second-chance points. After the Liberty pulled within two points, the Lynx outscored New York 18-9 over the rest of the quarter, with seven Lynx players scoring.

But the Lynx followed up that strong opening quarter with a second quarter that included many of the problems that plagued the team so much this season.

Rachel Banham hit a three-pointer early in the second to put the Lynx up 37-25. But the Lynx scored just eight more points the rest of the half. The Liberty scored five second-chance points and five points off Lynx turnovers in a 17-8 finish to the half that trimmed that 12-point lead to 45-42 at the break.

With Jefferson on the sideline having an injured finger on her right hand tended to, the Lynx managed to open up a 56-48 lead on Kayla McBride three-pointer with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

But then the Liberty — 5-for-18 on three-pointers up to that point — starting hitting from long range. Allen hit two three-pointers and scored eight points in a 15-4 run that gave New York it's first lead, 63-60, on Allen's three with 1:45 left in the quarter.

The Lynx tied the score at 63 when Powers made one of two free throws with 1:11 left. But Michaela Onyenwere's put-back enabled the Liberty to go ahead 65-63 entering the fourth.