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Lynx hand Liberty third straight defeat

New York Liberty center Tina Charles looks on

New York Liberty center Tina Charles looks on against the Minnesota Lynx in a WNBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

As bad draws go, the Liberty got about the worst it could get Tuesday night.

After dropping a pair of home games in overtime, the Liberty was looking to overcome the current and get back on shore with a win. Instead it got caught in the riptide that is defending NBA champ Minnesota and, after a 79-69 loss before 7,356 at the Garden, is even farther out at sea.

This was a game that featured five of the 12 players who will represent the United States on the Olympic team in Brazil. But four of them, including the sensational Maya Moore, play for the Lynx. Moore had 11 of her game-high 25 points in the first quarter as Minnesota (6-0) rolled to a 28-11 lead that rarely was threatened.

Moore had seven points in a 19-2 run, and she hit a baseline fadeaway off a sweet feed from Renee Montgomery with 1.1 seconds left in the quarter. The Liberty (2-3) had allowed opponents to shoot only 33.9 percent, which led the league, but got shredded by Minnesota’s 13-for-19 shooting in the first quarter.

“We didn’t play as hard as we had to in the first quarter. I warned the team before the game started that Minnesota is a very big first-quarter team,” coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They execute so well that we had to come out and play with such intensity in the first quarter or we’d be down, and that’s what happened.

“They have good players. They have four Olympians on the team. . . . And then they’re good front-runners. Once they get their confidence, they make a lot of shots.”

The Liberty’s lone Olympian, Tina Charles, had 23 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth straight double-double. Shavonte Zellous added 12 points. But the Liberty shot only 40.4 percent and committed 19 turnovers that became 22 Lynx points.

Seimone Augustus, who will join Moore and teammates Lindsay Whelan and Sylvia Fowles on the Olympic squad, had 13 points for Minnesota.

With Moore on the bench for the first six minutes in the second quarter, the Liberty made 10 of 15 free throws to climb back in. Sugar Rodgers’ three-pointer with 4:32 in the half got it within 33-28. Montgomery had six points in a 13-3 Lynx run to close the half.

In the fourth quarter the Liberty closed the margin to six twice, the last time with 1:02 to play on a Kiah Stokes putback. The Liberty missed its last three shots — none taken by Charles.

“The first couple games we lost, we kind of kicked them away. This time we got beat,” Laimbeer said. “This was the first game we really got beat.”

The Lynx is going for its fourth title in six seasons, and coach Cheryl Reeve said what she likes is that this group “wants to be the best team we’ve had.”

“I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m great when my team is great,” Moore said. “This team is great, so I am excited to see what could happen. This is going to be a really fun season in continuing to discover how good we can be together.”

New York Sports