Mercury’s comeback falls short, Liberty escapes with 99-95 victory

Jul 5, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: 7:48 pm

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham, left, grabs a pass away from New York Liberty forward Betn...

Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham, left, grabs a pass away from New York Liberty forward Betnijah Laney, during the first quarter of a WNBA basketball game, Sunday, June 18, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — Led by Diana Taurasi’s 23 point performance, the Phoenix Mercury stormed back from a 20-point, third-quarter deficit but lost to the New York Liberty 99-95 on Wednesday night.

Breanna Stewart scored 43 points and helped the Liberty build a 73-53 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter before Phoenix rallied to tie it at 92 all and then Michaela Onyenwere scored to give the Mercury their first lead since the opening minutes.

Jonquel Jones answered with a layup and then Courtney Vandersloot stole a pass and fed Stewart for a layup with 1:19 left to give New York the 94-92 advantage.

Both teams turned it over on their next possessions before Onyenwere, who was traded by New York in the offseason, was fouled with 33.4 seconds left. She hit the second of two free throws to get the Mercury back within one.

New York (12-4) worked the shot clock down and Stewart drove to the basket and hit a tough shot over two defenders to make it 98-95 with 18.4 seconds left.

Stewart scored 16 of New York’s final 18 points.

The Liberty got one last stop and Stewart sealed the win hitting one of two free throws with 3.7 seconds left.

This was the second game between the teams in New York in a few weeks. The Mercury (3-13) were missing Brittney Griner and Taurasi in the last meeting when they got blown out. Both stars played Wednesday night.

Griner received a loud ovation from the crowd when she was introduced pregame. New York set up a letter writing station at the arena in support of Griner and the work she’s been doing with Bring Our Families Home to raise awareness and support for individuals who are wrongfully detained overseas. She had 21 points.

New York led 53-46 at the half and extended that advantage to 20 before Taurasi got the Mercury back into the game with hot shooting. She drew two fouls on Kayla Thornton while shooting 3-pointers. Each one of the fouls was upgraded to a flagrant 1 which led to Thornton’s ejection. The first one, Taurasi made all three free throws and hit a 3-pointer for the rare six-point possession.

That got Phoenix going and they kept cutting into the lead in the fourth before tying it.

The Liberty returned home from a three-game road trip that saw them play in Connecticut, Las Vegas and Seattle. New York had a long travel day between Connecticut and Las Vegas.

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