MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The New York Liberty barely extended their longest winning streak in six seasons.
Nicole Powell scored 21 points and Cappie Pondexter added 17 to help the Liberty win their sixth straight game, beating Minnesota 74-72 on Sunday night.
They nearly blew it as a double-digit nearly vanished in the waning minutes. The Liberty had few answers against the Lynx zone. And Minnesota’s Monica Wright had a very good look on a shot that would have tied the game in the final seconds.
“We got lucky that didn’t go in,” Pondexter said.
But when New York secured the final rebound and the horn sounded, there was also some satisfaction.
“We got stops down the stretch, and needed to get one at the end and we got one,” New York coach Anne Donovan said. “There are things we need to work on obviously.”
Led by Powell’s five 3-pointers and 21 points, the Liberty (17-11) won for the 10th time in its past 12 games. The winning streak is the longest since 2004 for a New York team that continues to close the gap on Atlanta and Indiana for the best record in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference.
When New York led 12 points early in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Liberty was going to roll to a victory. But despite playing for the second time in just more than 24 hours, Minnesota didn’t go away.
The Lynx scored the next 11 points to get back in the game. When Wright scored a layup with 6:43 to play, the Lynx were within 63-62.
“In the fourth quarter, they went zone a lot and it made our offense a little stagnant,” Pondexter said.
But after Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus cut New York’s lead to 67-66 with 4:11 to play, Pondexter (17 points) penetrated and passed to a wide open Powell. The 3-pointer, Powell’s fifth of the game, stopped Minnesota’s surge.
“Cappie had the shot and she made the extra pass, she thought I had a better chance,” said Powell, who reached double figures for only the second time in the past seven games. “I was able to knock it down.”
Pondexter, who entered the game fourth in the WNBA in scoring, made a pair of free throws with 1:29 to play to stretch New York’s lead to 74-70. Wright cut the lead to two on the next possession, but the Lynx missed an opportunity to tie or win the game on the final possession. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for a Minnesota team battling for a playoff spot with Los Angeles and San Antonio.
“It was an unfortunate game for us,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We worked so hard to get a road win (Saturday). We really wanted to come home and get this win. We are trying to control our own destiny and winning our home games is a part of that.”
New York’s defense played a large role in that. The Liberty limited the Lynx to 24-for-73 shooting (32.9 percent) while also holding Augustus to 10 points and a single field goal after halftime.
“Cappie did a great job on her, I think our bench did a great job, it is team defense,” Powell said. “One person cannot stop her. She is Seimone Augustus, enough said.”
While the defense was strong, the Liberty also know there is still work to be done over the final six games of the regular season.
“There are areas where we have to be better,” Powell said. “To play well in the playoffs, we can’t make the mistakes we made tonight. There are a lot things we have to improve on if we want to be playing at the level we think we can.”