NEW YORK (AP) — It’s all starting to click for Tina Charles and the New York Liberty.
Charles scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Liberty to an 87-80 win over Maya Moore and the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Sunday.
“We’re starting to play better and I’m being more aggressive doing what my team needs,” said Charles, who had 28 points in the Liberty’s previous game.
New York (7-11) has won three straight and finished its five-game homestand with four victories.
“This was a big homestand for us,” said Cappie Pondexter, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for New York. “Now we’ve got to carry this over to the road.”
The Liberty, who are 1-7 on the road this season, head to San Antonio for a game before returning for two more at Madison Square Garden before the All-Star break.
Trailing 59-53 midway through the third quarter, New York went on a 20-6 run over the next 7 minutes to take a 73-65 lead early in the final period. Charles had six points during the burst, including a jumper that made it 69-65 and gave her a career high for points. Charde Houston’s jumper with 8:04 left in the fourth capped the burst.
Moore rallied Minnesota (13-6), scoring nine straight points. Her 3-pointer tied it at 76 with 5:10 left.
“I’m so used to seeing her take over when her team needs her,” Charles said of her former UConn teammate.
But New York closed the game scoring 11 of the final 15 points, including five by Pondexter to seal the win.
“When you are trying to win on the road in this league you need to play well on defense and rebound, we didn’t do either well down the stretch,” said Moore, who finished with 25 points to lead the Lynx.
This was the first time that Moore had played in Madison Square Garden as a pro as the arena had undergone a $1 billion renovation over the past three years. She flourished at MSG while playing for UConn, averaging 21.3 points in three victories that included the Huskies’ NCAA record-tying 88th straight win against Ohio State when Moore was a junior.
She got off to a quick start on Sunday, scoring the Lynx’s first seven points, including a nifty reverse layup. Charles, her former UConn teammate, matched her pretty much basket for basket.
Minnesota built a 35-23 lead early in the second quarter before Charles rallied the Liberty. Sugar Rodgers started a 17-4 run with a three-point play and Charles had four points during the spurt. Her layup with 3:48 left in the half gave New York a 40-39 lead. The game was tied at 48 at the half.
Charles had 24 points in the first 20 minutes.
Minnesota was still missing star Seimone Augustus, who has bursitis in her left knee. Augustus has missed the past three games, but did participate in pregame warmups on Sunday. The Lynx haven’t had their complete roster healthy for a game yet this season. Rebekkah Brunson is still recovering from a right knee injury.
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