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Led by a monster performance from Aerial Powers, the Lynx staved off a furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt to seal an 84-77 victory over the Liberty on Sunday at Barclays Center.
The victory is the Lynx's third of the season and second against New York, moving Minnesota to 3-8 and dropping the Liberty to the same record. While both teams have floundered at the bottom of the WNBA standings, New York entered Sunday on a two-game win streak.
The Lynx jumped out on a 7-0 run through the first two minutes, 38 seconds, the longest Minnesota has held an opponent scoreless to start a game this season.
But the fast start faded as quickly as it came. New York held Minnesota scoreless for five minutes, 26 seconds in the middle of the first quarter while ripping off a 9-0 run of its own. Sabrina Ionescu took the first lead for the Liberty, 10-9, on a contested three over Kamiah Smalls during that stretch.
Despite the scoring drought and six turnovers in the frame, the Lynx escaped the first quarter up by two on Jessica Shepard's last-second layup.
Minnesota carried that momentum into the second quarter on an 8-2 run punctuated by a timeout-forcing Powers jump shot.
Despite struggling through the first part of the season, Powers has found her groove and made her offensive presence known again Sunday. She finished the first half with 18 points on 8-of-13 from the field and the game with 27 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block.
With three minutes, 20 seconds before the half, the Lynx built its first double-digit lead of the game on a spectacular team play. Smalls tripped dribbling toward the basket and fired a pass from the ground to Evina Westbrook across the arc. Westbrook dished it to Kayla McBride who knocked down the three.
McBride, who suffered a quadricep contusion against the Dream on Wednesday, managed to stay in the starting lineup after working on range of motion around the clock between that game and Sunday. Trainers had her wake up intermittently throughout the night to get out of bed and move her legs, never sleeping more than a few hours at a time, Reeve said pregame.
She finished with 18 points and three rebounds.
The offensive explosion took Minnesota into the lockers up 46-37 at halftime, tied for the most the Lynx have scored in the first half of a game this season.
Fowles, who finished with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds, scored nine points in the third quarter, fueling further offensive domination out of the break that put Minnesota up by as much as 19 in the frame. The Lynx finished the frame with a 71-55 lead, the first time all season they've led after three quarters.
Then the fourth quarter hit like a brick wall. Through the first three minutes, 48 seconds of the quarter, New York outscored Minnesota 14-3 with another Ionescu three cutting the Lynx's lead to five and forcing a timeout.
Two consecutive New York jumpers out of the stoppage pulled the Liberty within one with just under four minutes to play.
But when Minnesota needed a hero, the Dark Knight rose in Gotham once again. Powers, who started the quarter 0-of-5 from the floor, knocked down two free throws to build the lead back to three. She grabbed the defensive rebound on the other end of the court and raced back to put up a 16-foot two. It bounced up off the iron then rattled in to put the Lynx back up five.
Minnesota never gave up the lead. A block from Bridget Carleton and a long two-pointer from Rachel Banham in the the final minute iced the seven-point win for the Lynx.
Guard Moriah Jefferson and forwards Natalie Achonwa and Damiris Dantas remained out with injuries against the Liberty. Jefferson has been out sidelined since May 29 against the Sparks and is on track to return in six to seven days, while Dantas, who hasn't played since August 2021, could be ready to play by the end of the week. Achonwa doesn't have a clear timeline for a return.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.