Seattle’s Sue Bird brings the ball upcourt during the Storm’s 96-80 win at New York on Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Seattle’s Sue Bird brings the ball upcourt during the Storm’s 96-80 win at New York on Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Stewart lifts Storm to 96-80 win over New York

A late rally spurred Seattle to the victory over the Liberty at Madison Square Garden.

By Doug Feinberg

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm weren’t concerned when the New York Liberty made a run to take a lead early in the fourth quarter.

They knew it was only a matter of time before they went on their own burst to put the game away.

The Storm scored 15 straight points to turn a two-point deficit into a 13-point lead and never looked back in a 96-80 victory over the Liberty on Monday at a camp day game at Madison Square Garden.

“It was a grind-out game for us until that point,” said Stewart, who scored 32 points. “We felt like that run was coming, it wasn’t if it was coming, it was when.”

Stewart’s 3-point play started the game-changing run.

Natasha Howard added 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and five steals for the Storm (22-7). She did a little bit of everything for Seattle during the spurt: a block, steal, basket and rebound. She also kept a few plays alive on both ends of the floor with her hustle.

“She’s so active. The stat line — that’s a crazy stat line,” Stewart said. “She’s in a good place. She knows what we expect from her.”

By the time Sugar Rodgers scored with just over 2 minutes left in the game, it was out of reach for New York, which has dropped seven straight and 15 of its last 18 games.

“The effort was definitely there. Everyone was playing hard,” said Tina Charles, who scored 20 points. “We ran up against a really great team.”

Kia Nurse also scored 20 points and Amanda Zahui B had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Liberty (7-21). It’s New York’s longest losing skid since dropping the final seven games of the 2013 season.

This was only the second game at the Garden this season — both were kids’ day games. The Liberty moved all the other home games to the Westchester County Center, which seats about 2,500.

Buoyed by an energetic crowd of 12,488, which included owner James Dolan and Chelsea Clinton, New York got off to a strong start against the WNBA’s top team. They were tied at 44 at the half.

Seattle built a nine-point lead in the third quarter, but the Liberty rallied behind Zahui B to take a 74-72 lead before fading.

Jewell Loyd added 17 points and seven assists for the Storm.

Seattle has already clinched a playoff spot, while New York was eliminated from the postseason with its loss Saturday to Indiana. It’s the first time since 2014 that the Liberty didn’t make the playoffs.

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