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Stewart scores 43 to lift Liberty to win over the Mercury and Griner

Breanna Stewart New York Liberty Breanna Stewart - Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart scored 43 points and the New York Liberty recovered from blowing a 20-point lead to beat the Phoenix Mercury 99-95 on Wednesday night.

Stewart helped the Liberty build a 73-53 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter before Phoenix rallied to tie it at 92 all and then Michaela Onyenwere scored to give the Mercury their first lead since the opening minutes.

Jonquel Jones answered with a layup and then Courtney Vandersloot stole a pass and fed Stewart for a layup with 1:19 left to give New York the 94-92 advantage.

Both teams turned it over on their next possessions before Onyenwere, who was traded by New York in the offseason, was fouled with 33.4 seconds left. She hit the second of two free throws to get the Mercury back within one.

New York (12-4) worked the shot clock down and Stewart, who also had 12 rebounds and six assists, drove to the basket and hit a tough shot over two defenders to make it 98-95 with 18.4 seconds left.

“Things don’t always go our way, but we continue to grind it out,” said Stewart, who scored 14 of New York's final 16 points and was just shy of her career-high 45 points set in the home opener.

The Liberty got one last stop and Stewart sealed the win hitting one of two free throws with 3.7 seconds left.

This was the second game between the teams in New York in a few weeks. The Mercury (3-13) were missing Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi in the last meeting when they got blown out. Both stars played Wednesday night.

Griner received a loud ovation from the crowd when she was introduced pregame. New York set up a letter writing station at the arena in support of Griner and the work she’s been doing with Bring Our Families Home to raise awareness and support for individuals who are wrongfully detained overseas.

“You don't know how much it means when you're in that situation and you get a letter like that,” Griner said. “You don't feel forgotten. It's so easy to feel forgotten when you're there. So just being able to get those letters to keep that going for other families. It just brings so much home. You know it's a dangerous thing, but it brings so much hope.”

She had 21 points. Taurasi finished with 23 points as she continued on her path to 10,000 career points. The WNBA's all-time scoring leader has 9,881 now.

New York led 53-46 at the half and extended that advantage to 20 before Taurasi got the Mercury back into the game with hot shooting. She drew two fouls on Kayla Thornton while shooting 3-pointers. Each one of the fouls was upgraded to a flagrant 1 which led to Thornton's ejection. The first one, Taurasi made all three free throws and hit a 3-pointer for the rare six-point possession.

That got Phoenix going and they kept cutting into the lead in the fourth before tying it.

The Liberty returned home from a three-game road trip that saw them play in Connecticut, Las Vegas and Seattle. New York had a long travel day between Connecticut and Las Vegas.