The New York Liberty hold a slim lead on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they would secure a potentially pivotal tiebreaker with another win over the sputtering Washington Mystics.
The Liberty will seek a season high-tying third straight victory Sunday when they visit the Mystics, who are on the brink of matching the worst skid in franchise history.New York (13-17) is a game ahead of Chicago for fourth place in East thanks to a 75-62 home win over Washington (5-26) on Wednesday and the Sky's loss in Los Angeles the next night.With a victory Sunday, the Liberty will essentially increase their lead even if Chicago prevails in Phoenix later in the day. New York currently owns a 1 1/2-game lead over the Sky on the second tiebreaker, best record in conference games, and would clinch that with their 10th win over an East opponent this season.Chicago has seven such victories with two conference games remaining. The teams split their four head-to-head matchups, the first tiebreaker."Chicago's playing really well right now," guard Cappie Pondexter said. "The West Coast teams, everybody's clinched a playoff spot, so there's a big chance they could be resting their players. Chicago could actually have it easy going on their road trip."Pondexter had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists Wednesday, and the Liberty needed that effort to fend off the pesky Mystics. The league's worst team trailed by only three points with less than six minutes remaining but was outscored 15-5 down the stretch.Nicole Powell had 15 points for New York and Kia Vaughn recorded her first double-double of the season. Monique Currie had a season-high 24 points for the Mystics."Washington has been a difficult team for us," said Liberty coach John Whisenant, whose team is 4-1 this month. "The thing that I was most pleased with was the fourth quarter, we showed that determination."The Mystics' slide reached 10 games Friday, blowing an 11-point lead during an 82-74 home loss to Atlanta. The longest losing streaks in club history were 11-game skids during the 1998 and 2003 seasons."It's frustrating, but all we can do is continue to work and continue to compete," Currie said. "We only have (three) more games but we'll play it out till the end."Washington already has lost to the Liberty twice this month but did win once in four meetings this season, 70-53 at New York on July 13. Crystal Langhorne led the way with 24 points.The Liberty won 76-70 on June 8 in the only matchup at the Verizon Center as Pondexter scored 25.