Liberty 70, Lynx 60
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Minnesota slips to 3-2 with tonight's defeat, but remains in second place in the Western Conference thanks to Houston's 69-58 loss at Charlotte this evening. It's the third time Minnesota has started a season 3-2 (1999, 2000). The Lynx are two games behind 5-0 Los Angeles, and kick off a three-game West Coast swing on Tuesday against the Sparks at Staples Center.
The Liberty improve to 2-1, picking up their second straight win after a season-opening 74-50 setback at Cleveland (May 31). New York moves into a second-place tie with the Rockers in the Eastern Conference, one game in back of 4-1 Charlotte. The Liberty stop in Indiana on Saturday night before starting a three-game homestand on Tuesday night against Cleveland.
The win was New York's third in a row at Target Center since dropping a 60-58 decision in its first-ever visit (July 17, 1999). The Liberty take a 4-3 lead in the all-time series
; Minnesota is 2-1 at Madison Square Garden, but is not scheduled to play in New York this summer.
New York guard Becky Hammon scored a career-high and franchise-record 33 points, shattering Tari Phillips' previous club record of 30 (June 30, 2000 vs. Indiana). Hammon's previous single-game best was 23, set vs. Utah on June 3, 2000; she also established career highs for FGM (12) and three-pointers made (6). In addition, Hammon surpassed the 1,000-career-point plateau with a trey at the 12:22 mark in the second half.
Hammon's 33 points is also the WNBA high thus far in 2003 (topping the 31 scored by Connecticut's Shannon Johnson vs. Houston on May 30) and the most ever by a Lynx opponent (breaking Lisa Leslie's mark of 32 set at Los Angeles on July 8, 2001). She's only the fourth player to tally 30+ against Minnesota, joining Sophia Witherspoon (31 vs. Portland, July 2, 2000) and Yolanda Griffith (30 vs. Sacramento, June 29, 1999).
Minnesota used a 16-4 run in the second half to erase a 15-point deficit and close within 57-55 with 4:40 to play. The Lynx then missed four chances to tie or take the lead, and New York closed the game by outscoring them 13-5 over the final 3:10. It's the first time this season that Minnesota has been outscored in the second half; they've trailed at halftime in all five games to date.
The Liberty shot 64.3% (18-for-28) in the second half en route to a season-high 54.7% (29-for-53) effort. That ties the highest percentage ever allowed by Minnesota; Phoenix also went 29-for-53 at Target Center on July 14, 2001. The Lynx had held their first four opponents to a combined 39.7% in the second half.
New York center Tari Phillips grabbed a game- and season-high nine rebounds, while guard Teresa Weatherspoon handed out a game- and season-high six assists.
was the only Lynx player to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points to go along with a team-leading six rebounds. Eight of her points came in the second half; she's now tallied 68 percent of her season total (54 of 79) after intermission. Smith sank a pair of three-pointers in tonight's game, leaving her just one shy of becoming the first player in WNBA history to reach 300 for her career.