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Liberty fires up fans in New York

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NEW YORK — The New York Liberty improved their celebrity fan base and their home winning streak.

Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were in attendance Monday night as Tari Phillips scored 16 points and the Liberty beat Detroit 66-60, extending their winning streak at Madison Square Garden to five games.

"I think everybody was fired up," New York's Becky Hammon said. "That's as big a celebrity as it gets."

The Clintons, who received a warm welcome from the crowd of 14,052, watched the game with WNBA president Val Ackerman. Sen. Clinton presented a $10,000 check at halftime to the TEAK fellowship program, which benefits disadvantaged but gifted children, on behalf of the Liberty and Cablevision.

Phillips scored 10 points in the second half, and Sue Wicks and Teresa Weatherspoon each finished with 11 for the Liberty (10-4), who won for the ninth time in 10 games and moved within a half-game of first-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.

In other WNBA games Monday night, it was Houston 74, Portland 67; and Miami 69, Utah 59.

Bill Clinton waved to the crowd and shared french fries with fans sitting behind him. The Clintons' attendance was a distraction to some of the players.

"I tried to stay focused on the game, but I know I looked over there at least 25 times just to see what was going on," Wicks said. "It was very, very, very thrilling."

The game's final minutes also provided plenty of drama.

Detroit's Astou Ndiaye-Diatta tied the game at 57 with a layup with 2:13 remaining.

New York seized control with a 7-0 run. Wicks started it with a free throw, and Weatherspoon's jumper as the shot clock expired made it 60-57 with 1:20 left.

Vickie Johnson, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds, coaxed a turnover by Deanna Nolan with 55 seconds left. Crystal Robinson hit a jumper and Weatherspoon added two free throws, giving the Liberty a 64-57 lead with 24 seconds left.

"They got some offensive rebounds late and went to the free-throw line 24 times in the second half," Detroit coach Greg Williams said. "That was the big difference in the game."

Elena Tornikidou, who led Detroit (4-9) with 16 points, hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, but two free throws by Robinson put the game out of reach.

Jae Kingi added 14 points for the Shock, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Nolan added 12 points.

Weatherspoon appreciated having the Clintons in attendance.

"They both could have been doing something else," Weatherspoon said. "But they chose to celebrate with us."

New York, which trailed 32-31 at halftime, shot 18-for-27 from the line. The Shock shot 7-for-13 from the line.

Detroit, which shot 64 percent in the first 13 minutes, used a 9-0 run to open a 16-10 lead. The Liberty went on a 12-5 run, capped by Hammon's 3-pointer, for a 22-21 lead with 7:48 remaining.

COMETS 74, FIRE 67: Tina Thompson had 29 points and 12 rebounds, and Janeth Arcain scored 23 points for Houston.

Jackie Stiles scored 15 of her 20 points in the first half and was limited to just four shots in the second half for Portland, which lost for the third time in five road games.