With 28.5 seconds left in overtime, Lynx forward Maya Moore, riding a hot second-half hand, heaved the ball at the basket and watched it sink as the crowd of 7,721 at Target Center let off one last cheer.
But like the rest of her off-and-on night, her three-pointer was overshadowed by the flurry the New York Liberty downed from the perimeter, and by the late Lynx mistakes and missed chances. Still down three points, Moore’s long ball was all but pointless. The Lynx got the ensuing jump ball on the next possession but flubbed the last shot, falling short again, 95-92.
After a record-setting 13-0 start, the Lynx have lost three games in a row for the first time since 2014.
“Painful reminder of how small the margin is between winning and losing,” Moore said. “But it will get fixed. It will get fixed.”
For most of the second half, it looked like the night would bring redemption.
After tumbling to a pair of back-to-back losses by a total of 42 points in the previous two games, the Lynx had charged back from an early deficit to Eastern Conference leading Liberty and seized a 15-point lead — the charm, it seemed, to get back on the road to winning.
Instead, the Lynx — suddenly looking troubled after their historic start to the season — collected another flat tire.
The Lynx led 81-66 with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but a second-half offensive firestorm crashed to a halt as Liberty (11-5) — even without leading scorer Tina Charles, who sat out because of a broken nose — launched a 17-2 run down the stretch, tying the score at 83-83 on a 23-foot three-pointer from Sugar Rodgers with 48.6 seconds to go.
The Lynx had two chances to retake the lead at the end of regulation but muffed both; Janel McCarville put up an air ball and then there was a shot-clock violation.
The Lynx gave up eight threes, some uncontested. Rodgers, the former Lynx player who finished with a career-high 30 points, made seven of those threes.
“We’re not made of steel,” coach Cheryl Reeve warned before the game.
Afterward, Reeve had some more choice words to share in a news conference that lasted 86 seconds. She called perimeter defense “the biggest disappointment” of the season.
“It’s not registering,” she said. “We’re not getting it done. Perimeter players on every team have their way with us.
“I’m sure that Sugar Rodgers enjoyed handing us 30 points. I’m sure she enjoyed that.”
The unraveling felt more dramatic on the heels of a celebratory third quarter.
Moore, who had 24 points and five rebounds, knocked down three baskets in the first 1:05 of the third, awakening after a two-point first half. Then, after the Lynx padded their advantage, the Liberty made its last punch.
Former Gophers center Amanda Zahui B., getting her first career start in Charles’ place, made an impact down the stretch, knocking down a long two-point jump shot, hitting a pair of free throws and swiping a steal. She finished with a career-high 17 points and also had nine rebounds.
The Lynx, meanwhile, are simply trying to regain their touch at the steering wheel.
“Teams are starting to find their identity and we were just coasting along like we did those first 13 games of the season,” Seimone Augustus said. “Now, we have to readjust ourselves and find our own identity.”