The New York Liberty earned a critical victory their last time out, bouncing back after losing to the team they’re battling for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
They’ll try to post another key win Wednesday night when they host the Washington Mystics, losers of eight in a row.
New York (12-17) responded to its defeat to Chicago on Friday by beating Los Angeles 73-71 on Sunday. The Liberty rallied from 15 points down in the first half en route to their third win in four games.
“We’ve got to play like we have to win every game,” coach John Whisenant said. “If we get into the playoffs with a three-game series and we play as hard as we did tonight, there won’t be anybody more athletically gifted like we played tonight.”
Cappie Pondexter had 21 points and a career-high 12 rebounds while Plenette Pierson scored 17 for New York, which is tied with the Sky for fourth place in the East.
The Liberty put together a dominant defensive effort in the third quarter, outscoring the Sparks 23-7.
“It shows our hard work and dedication and our fight,” Pondexter said. “We displayed that especially in the third quarter. We had so much energy.”
Three of the Liberty’s five remaining games are on the road and the next two are against the Mystics (5-24), owners of the WNBA’s worst record, but New York has hardly had an easy time with them in 2012. Though the Liberty have taken two of three matchups, the wins came by six points apiece and New York lost 70-53 at Madison Square Garden on July 13 - Washington’s only victory in 15 road games this season.
The Mystics have won only once since then, beating the Sky on Aug. 19 before dropping their next eight. They were routed for the second straight game Sunday, 93-68 at Atlanta after losing by 28 to Los Angeles on Friday.
Washington averages a league-low 69.5 points and its 78.8 allowed per contest is near the bottom. The Mystics let Atlanta shoot 58 percent from the field.
“I think it was some mental lapses, especially in the first half,” coach Trudi Lacey said. “Just not getting back on defense. We talked about it as part of our game plan and for whatever reason we didn’t do it. Against a good playoff team like that you obviously can’t make those kind of mistakes.”
Crystal Langhorne has averaged 22.3 points in the three matchups with New York this year - 7.0 above her season average.