Sue Bird had a chance to tie the score by making two free throws with 4.5 seconds to play. She hit the first shot and missed the second.
NEW YORK — With a cluster of reporters tucked around her at Madison Square Garden before Wednesday’s game against the Liberty, Breanna Stewart was asked her impression of New York City.
“I don’t know,” said Stewart, whose friends made the 4½-hour trip from her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., for the game. “We’ve only been here about five hours.”
Following a road loss to the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night, the Storm faced a screeching turnaround: the Eastern Conference-leading Liberty.
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But the Storm, which had not beaten the Liberty in its last seven tries — and not in New York since 2010 — was ready.
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The Storm had two chances to tie the Liberty in the final 10 seconds Wednesday but lost, 78-74.
With her team trailing 75-73, Sue Bird had two free throws with 4.5 seconds to play. Bird hit the first but missed the second. The Liberty recovered the rebound.
Seattle had one more chance to tie it, trailing 77-74 with 1.9 seconds to play, but Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers stole the ball from Stewart.
“We had an actual rough (game) last night,” said Stewart. “We definitely fought (Wednesday) and showed we’re a gritty team and we’re not going to give up.”
After trailing 31-13 with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Storm (6-12) matched the Liberty stride for stride. Buoyed by Bird (10 assists) and Crystal Langhorne, the Storm began to loosen up the Liberty’s defense.
Stewart had a game-high 24 points and 16 rebounds.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis turned heroic in the fourth quarter, hitting a big three-pointer with 7:25 to play to hold the Liberty’s lead at 67-64, and another long-range shot two minutes later.
Ultimately even Tina Charles, who was held under 20 points (18 points, six rebounds) for the first time in 10 games, couldn’t put the Storm away with two huge jump shots inside of five minutes.
Trailing 75-73, the Storm inbounded the ball on the sideline. Bird, visibly fatigued in the second half, was fouled. She made the first and missed the second.
“To be honest, I’d put my entire bank account on her to win any game,” said Storm coach Jenny Boucek. “I want her right back out there next game.”
Stewart had her chance, too, but the sideline inbounds pass was pulled from her hands. The referees conferred about the call, charging Stewart with a foul.
For the Liberty, it was a crisis averted. For the Storm, a dogged effort.