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New York Liberty fall in Minnesota to Lynx, 74-66

New York Liberty v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Liberty lost their fifth straight game — and eighth of the past nine — on Tuesday night in Minnesota, 74-66. New York’s struggles have become poignant and the fate of the season is in question.

The story of the game for New York was an inability to hit shots. The LIberty created open opportunities time and time again but just as often failed to convert. They closed the evening shooting 32.4 percent from the field and a mere 20.8 percent from behind the t3-point arc.

The Liberty still hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the WNBA standings (by eight percentage points), but their chances at a postseason bid are becoming slim. The competition to end the season is stiff for New York — Seattle and Connecticut will be especially difficult — and both the Mystics and the Sparks are hot on their tail.

After a strong showing in the first half, the Liberty struggled to contain the Lynx on the glass in the second half of action. Minnesota snagged 7 offensive rebounds in the third and fourth periods en route to victory. Postgame, head coach Walt Hopkins commented on New York’s struggles on the boards:

”As far as the defensive end and the rebounding, I don’t think there was a change in anything Minnesota was doing, as much as they know their people and what they do well — they went to the well,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins added that the team would not consider playing forward/centers Kylee Shook and Natasha Howard on the floor together going forward.

Despite the loss, rookie Michaela Onyenwere shined against the Lynx. The Rookie Of The Year frontrunner posted her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Onyemwere explained how the performance would help her moving forward.

“It’s a confidence booster — my teammates found me when they were over helping. Some didn’t fall, but it helped me get into rhythm in those moments… I’m grateful my team had the confidence in me.”

Hopkins praised the rookie as well: “[Michaela] he was really locked in on rebounding tonight. It’s one of the things I talked to her about after the game. Sometimes shots don’t fall, sometimes fouls aren’t called: she drove & powered up through contact.”

After missing three games in the last week with an ankle injury, sharpshooting guard Sami Whitcomb returned Tuesday night for the Liberty. She did not score, going 0-for-3 from the field and missing her two 3-point attempts.

Postgame, Hopkins commented on Whitcomb’s health after her return: “She felt fine. I thought she was sped up, as anyone is when they’re coming back off an injury. I’m glad she got a couple of minutes to move around and get some game reps, but she hasn’t even had a practice yet.”

As for the Lynx, forward Napheesa Collier and guard Kayla McBride led the way in the absence of Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota’s MVP candidate. McBride scored 25 points on 44% shooting from the field while Collier adeed 21 points on 42.1% shooting.

The Liberty will face a recent familiar foe in the Seattle Storm next on Thursday, September 2. The game will be aired on Amazon Prime and the YES Network.