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Lynx stunned by last-second dagger from Phoenix veteran Copper, lose 81-80

Friday night in Phoenix, Lynx guard Kayla McBride broke a personal and franchise record. But it was the Lynx who had their hearts broken in the end.

Kahleah Copper's three-pointer with 0.7 seconds left lifted Phoenix — which trailed by nine points with 6½ minutes left and by six with 2:01 left — to an 81-80 victory.

The Lynx (7-3) were outscored 10-3 over the final 2:01, and Copper scored every one of those Mercury points.

McBride scored 25 points, making eight of 13 three-point attempts as the Lynx went 15-for-34 from behind the arc. Those eight threes were a career and franchise high. Napheesa Collier added 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

"You think of people who have come through this franchise, I'm very honored to put my name there," McBride said. "But I always want to win the game. … I'd feel a lot better if we'd won. Tonight hurts."

The Lynx struggled all night to contain Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP who had her league-leading fourth 30-point game of the season.

"Players make plays," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "The last two minutes of the game were all Kahleah Copper, and we didn't have an answer for it."

The Lynx were not as efficient from inside the arc as from outside it. They shot only 13-for-38 on two-pointers, shooting 38.9% on the night.

Still, after a slow first quarter that ended with the Lynx down six, McBride and Collier turned things around in the second and third quarters. The Lynx pulled within three at halftime. Then McBride made four of five threes and scored 13 points in Minnesota's 25-16 third quarter.

Up six entering the fourth, the Lynx pushed their lead to nine before things started going south in the Mercury's 20-10 finish to the game.

Still, the Lynx were up 77-71 after Courtney Williams hit a jumper with 2:01 left.

But here's how the rest of the game went from there:

The two teams traded misses, then Copper scored on a drive with 1:10 left. After a Lynx turnover Copper scored again. She was fouled but missed the free throw, leaving the Mercury within 77-75 with 39 seconds left.

Collier fed Alanna Smith for a layup with 25.8 seconds left. But, out of a timeout, less than 3 seconds later, Copper hit a three to make it a one-point game.

The Lynx were not yet in the bonus, so the Mercury had to foul twice to get Minnesota to the line. The clock ran down to 6.3 seconds left before Phoenix fouled the first time. Bridget Carleton was fouled on the ensuing inbound play, went to the line with 5.3 seconds left but hit one of two free throws.

Out of a timeout, Brittney Griner handed the ball off to Copper, who hit the winning three.

BOXSCORE: Phoenix 81, Lynx 80

A week ago at Target Center, the Lynx beat the Mercury by 24. But that Phoenix team was without Griner, the nine-time All-Star center who made her season debut Friday, and Rebecca Allen, who returned from a concussion.

A deeper Mercury team gave the Lynx problems. Still, long-range shooting put the Lynx in a position to win.

"Her will in the second half was incredible,'' Reeve said of McBride. "Unfortunately it came in a loss. But the force they were playing with got us a little flat-footed at times. We settled in in the second and third quarter, but that fourth was pretty tough.''

The Mercury's 27 fourth-quarter points were the most by a Lynx opponent this season.

"I hate the fact we lost,'' McBride said. "I could care less [about the record]. … I always want to win the game. My coaches know that, my teammates know that."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material