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Minnesota Lynx Hang On in Tough Second Half, Defeat Liberty 85-80

Maya Moore and Tricia Liston led the way for the Lynx in the team's last preseason game. Things got dicey toward the end, but a scoring run sealed the win for Minnesota.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A game that initially looked to be a runaway win came down to the wire Monday night in the Lynx's last preseason game against New York. Fortunately for Minnesota, the Lynx were able to hold things together in the final minutes to come away with the 85-80 win. Maya Moore led the team in scoring with 19 points, followed by Tricia Liston with 17. Tina Charles tallied 19 points for the Liberty.

"The ones that needed [that win] were my starters, Coach Cheryl Reeves said following the game. "They needed to feel adversity. They needed to execute. We accomplished a lot tonight."

Minnesota jumped off to an early lead, grabbing the first basket after a New York error, and things only got better from there. The Lynx were down 7-6 at the 7:35 mark, but a subsequent steal by Moore seemed to swing the momentum in Minny’s favor. And boy, did it swing.

The Lynx shot 55.9 percent in the first half, in addition to 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90.9 percent from the charity stripe. Forward Tricia Liston exploded off the bench, checking in at the 4:52 mark of the first quarter and scoring 14 points in just nine minutes—four of those buckets were from behind the arc.

"Coming into this year, my biggest goal was to be confident in what I do well, and that’s shooting the ball," Liston said post game. "Passing up open looks isn’t going to help anybody."

Veteran Lindsay Whalen praised Liston as well, saying, "She makes a lot of things happen."

The Lynx entered halftime feeling pretty comfortable, but New York picked up the pace in the second half, cutting the deficit to nine (57-48) about halfway through the third quarter. Play from both teams seemed overly hyped and a bit sloppy at that point, and Reeves brought Liston off the bench in hopes to add another spark.

Liston did grab a fifth three-point shot shortly into the fourth quarter that revived the Target Center crowd and extended Minnesota's lead to 73-65, but New York continued to rev up its scoring. The Liberty went on a 9-0 run to cut the score to 73-72 with 4:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.

With the game tied at 75 with just over three minutes left in the game, things started to get chippy. Preseason or not, both teams equally desired that win. Seimone Augustus and Moore both stepped up during the final few minutes, sinking a couple of crucial jump shots to keep a small edge over New York.

Minnesota outscored the Liberty 10-3 to finish out the game, and a pair of free throws by Whalen sealed the deal.

Final Roster Taking Shape

The Lynx roster was one spot closer to its final number at Monday night, as the team waived center Amber Harris Sunday night.  Harris missed the 2014 due to a knee injury, and she had hoped to come back this year. Minnesota will need to cut two more players by Wednesday to arrive at the ultimate 11-woman lineup.

All eyes were on guard Monica Wright, whose health is in question and will essentially impact which players get cut this week.  Wright underwent a knee procedure following the 2014 season, and she spent the off months recovering. Unfortunately for the Lynx, however, she suffered a calf injury on the opening day of camp. Up until this point, Wright has been unable to go 100 percent.

Wright is noticeably not at full capacity yet, and her gait looked a bit off. She finished the evening with two points and three rebounds in 15 minutes minutes on the hardwood.

If the Lynx need to keep an extra guard, it will be backup point guard Jennifer O’Neill. Monday night promised to be a crucial one for O'Neill as she looked to earn a spot on the final roster. The 5'5" guard certainly doesn't let her size slow her down, as she confidently ran the floor in  minutes of playing time. O'Neill certainly doesn't lack tanacity, but the guard's shooting left some wanting; she finished the game just 1-of-8 from the floor.

"Jen learned a ton tonight," said Reeves. "One of the things we tried to accomplish tonight: get O’Neill in there, kind of throw her to the wolves, and see what happens. She has to learn to be efficient, just like any rookie needs to learn [...] She has a lot to learn about managing a team [...] but she's got grit. She's got fight. She's not going to quit on plays."

Despite a lower shooting performance, O'Neill may still be safe if Wright is unable to play full minutes. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what roster moves are made over the next two days.

Additional Game Notes

  • Forward Rebekkah Brunson had a less-than-exciting performance, finishing the game with just four points and two rebounds.
  • Former Lynx guard Candice Wiggins also had a quiet evening, scoring only eight points on the evening.
  • Minnesota shot 50 percent from the 3-point line, accounting for 21 of its points for behind the arc.