Mystics-Liberty Preview

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Needing to win their last two games and get some help from teams across the final two days of the season to have the chance to defend their WNBA title, the Washington Mystics look to take care of the things they can control this weekend starting with Saturday’s matchup with the league-worst New York Liberty.

Washington (7-13) is vying with Dallas and Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot, a difficult task because the Mystics have already been swept in the head-to-head tiebreaker with two overtime losses to the Wings. Mike Thibault’s team also closes the season against the Dream on Sunday, which could turn into a de facto elimination or create a potential three-way deadlock at 8-14 in which league tiebreakers would be needed to determine the eighth seed.

The Mystics, though, are showing championship mettle at a needed moment. They have won back-to-back games over top-four teams, including an 80-72 triumph over Los Angeles on Thursday night. Myisha Hines-Allen had 30 points and nine rebounds, and Ariel Atkins’ go-ahead 3-pointer triggered a game-closing 12-4 burst over the final 2:53.

“Its’ win or go home right now,” Hines-Allen told The Washington Post. “We let the game with Dallas slip by us. We’re playing with a sense of urgency, that’s really what it is. Not desperate, just a sense of urgency to do everything we need to do in the 40 minutes.”

Hines-Allen has been a dominant force in Washington’s late-season push, averaging 23.8 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in the last four games while shooting 62.7 percent (42 for 67).

The Liberty could spoil someone’s postseason considering they close the season against the Wings on Sunday. It may be a tall order for New York, though, which has lost six straight games following an 85-75 setback to Indiana on Thursday night.

Paris Kea scored a career-high 21 points and Kia Nurse added 18 for the Liberty, while rookie Jazmine Jones contributed nine points and 10 rebounds. Jones, one of seven rookies to start the season on New York’s roster, is fourth among rookies in scoring at 10.4 points per game and first with 1.4 steals per contest.

“I’m really happy with her effort, her focus, her energy and her talk,” first-year Liberty coach Walter Hopkins said of Jones. “I just thought she gave us a really big spark.”

New York’s first victory of the season came at the expense of Washington on Aug. 7 as it avoided its first 0-6 start in club history with a 74-66 triumph. Kia Nurse scored 17 points and Amanda Zahui B. added 14 and 14 rebounds as the Liberty also snapped a six-game losing streak to the Mystics.

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