NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — After losing to New York at home two nights earlier, the Minnesota Lynx wanted to show the Liberty how good they really are.
Maya Moore scored 19 points and the Lynx cruised to an 86-68 victory over the Liberty on Sunday. Seimone Augustus had 12 points and Rebekkah Brunson added 10. Minnesota (25-7), which had already clinched home-court throughout the playoffs, shot 54 percent from the field, including 8 for 18 on 3-pointers.
“We don’t like to lose at home. It was the third time we lost at home. We were just disappointed with our overall effort and execution in that game,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “(They) have very high expectations of themselves. It takes very little motivation to get them to bounce back after losses. They executed the game plan brilliantly and I thought we were difficult to play against and that was our goal.”
Plenette Pierson scored 17 points and Nicole Powell had 10 for the Liberty (18-14), who had won five of their previous seven. New York leading scorer Cappie Pondexter shot 0 for 7 from the field and finished with nine points — half of her season average — and had seven assists.
The Lynx outscored the Liberty 15-5 in the third quarter while holding them to 1-for-19 shooting from the field. Minnesota led 67-46 lead heading to the fourth, and Amber Harris’ layup with 5:18 remaining gave the Lynx their biggest lead at 76-52.
Reeve said she made an adjustment at halftime, changing to more of a man-to-man system.
“I thought we set the tone in the second half,” Reeve said. “We did a better job staying matched up on players. … We like to really angle the side pick and I thought they were exploiting our rotation so we took that off in halftime and we tried to do more 5-on-5s and keep our bigs on bigs and guards on guards. A little bit of it was luck, they got some open shots, but they didn’t make.”
After the Liberty pulled within nine on Powell’s steal and layup with 5:57 left in the third, the Lynx scored the next 11 points to take a 65-45 lead nearly 4 minutes later. Moore had six points during the spurt, including the jumper that put Minnesota up 20 with 2:07 to go.
“We wanted to feel good about ourselves going to the playoffs,” Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “We had to come out here and play well and this is what we’re focused on and getting ready for the playoffs. … Defensively, I thought we were a lot better tonight and it showed with a win.”
Quanitra Hollingsworth made 1 of 2 from the line with about 56 seconds left to end the Liberty’s scoring drought at 5:01.
Brunson’s jumper with 13 seconds to go gave the Lynx their 21-point lead after three periods.The Liberty got no closer than 15 the rest of the way.
“It seemed like the basket was open for them and it was closed for us,” Pierson said. “I think we played defense, we had some let downs off and on and I think that’s what led to their run. When you’re hitting shots that can fuel you either way it goes. For us, our defense led to some easy shots and we missed them, so that was the biggest thing.”
Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored six consecutive points during one stretch as Minnesota pulled away with an 18-3 run bridging the first two quarters, taking a 37-21 lead on Brunson’s layup with 7:25 to go in the first half.
Kara Braxton scored six straight points to pull the Liberty within 10 about 1½ minutes later.
Whalen and McWilliams-Franklin had consecutive layups to push the Lynx’s lead back to 16 with 2:10 remaining in the half.
Leilani Mitchell made a 3 and Pondexter made two free throws in the final minute as New York closed the second quarter with a 7-2 run to pull to 52-41 at the break.