New York, N.Y. - The struggles continue to loom on the New York Liberty's opening homestand.
The undefeated Minnesota Lynx handed the Liberty their third straight loss at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night 79-69.
It took a short five minutes for Maya Moore and her Minnesota offense to figure out New York's defense in the paint. Moore got the Lynx on the board first and ended with another outstanding performance scoring 25 points.
"A great player like Maya Moore has never missed a training camp. That's six years now," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.
Towards the end of the first quarter, the Lynx went on a 9-0 run, putting the Liberty in an early 20-9 deficit.
By halftime, the Lynx scored 18 points in the paint to the Liberty's six.
"They have four Olympians on the team, so they're going to make shots," said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer.
It was clear Minnesota's game plan was to contain the Liberty's go-to shooter Tina Charles. However, just when they thought they had her figured out at the half, she lit up the Garden in her normal fashion.
"Trying to make her touches hard is hard to do for 40 minutes," said Moore. "We thankfully did it long enough to come out with a win."
Charles had just seven points after the second quarter, but by the end of the game, she racked up 16 for a total of 23 points.
"It's a hard task to try to slow her down. It takes a team effort, and she's aggressive and very skilled in the post," said Moore.
Just like Charles mentioned last week, she's not the team's sole scorer. Sugar Rodgers took advantage of Charles' limited opportunities early on by creating some of her own.
Down 33-25 in the second quarter, Rodgers stepped up with a major three to put the Liberty back in it.
Starting to put the life back in Madison Square Garden, the Lynx would fire back with the help of Renee Montgomery off the bench. She followed up Rodgers' three with a jumper that put the New York crowd back in their seats.
The rest of the half just got worse from there for the Liberty. Back to back turnovers by Lindsey Harding and Swin Cash resulted in extra scoring opportunities for the Lynx and another big deficit; this time, it was by 12.
That wasn't enough for the undefeated champs to go into halftime with. Seimone Augustus racked up her ninth point of the game with a jumper that sent the Lynx to the locker room with a 46-31 lead.
In the second half, aside from the comeback of Charles, Shavonte Zellous, and Brittany Boyd became tremendous assets off the Liberty's bench.
A Zellous jump shot and Boyd's driving layup were the difference in putting New York back within nine of the Lynx with just under three minutes remaining.
The story for the Liberty's last few outings was their inability to finish games. In this one, it seemed the team came to life in the final five minutes.
With 1:02 left, Kiah Stokes scored for the first time since the second quarter. Stokes' layup put the Liberty down 75-69, the game's closest point differential since early in the first quarter.
The comeback happened too late, and the Liberty could not fight back. That marks three losses in a row and just one home game left before taking to the road for a three-game away series.
"As far as record-wise, we could have a much better record, but we don't. We have some issues we have to work our way through. We have to find a way to score and take pressure off our defense," said Laimbeer.