After gaining a key advantage, the New York Liberty have a chance to wrap up a playoff berth as early as Tuesday night. The first step for the Liberty is earning a third consecutive road win over the San Antonio Silver Stars.
New York (14-17) is one game ahead of Chicago for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and clinched a crucial tiebreaker with a 75-68 comeback win at Washington on Sunday. The Liberty finished with a 10-12 record in conference play and the Sky can't earn more than nine such victories, so Chicago needs to finish with a better overall record than New York - which won't be possible if it loses at Seattle and the Liberty win Tuesday.
The Liberty's season high-tying third straight win almost didn't happen as they trailed by nine with 8:57 remaining against the last-place Mystics. Cappie Pondexter, though, scored 10 of her 30 points after that point and Nicole Powell added 10 of her season-high 18.
Pondexter has averaged 24.3 points in her past four games and 10.0 rebounds over her last three, boosting her season marks to 20.7 points and 4.6 boards.
"Cappie. She's been awesome. She's our MVP and the most important player to her team of anybody in the league," said coach John Whisenant, whose team is 5-1 this month.
Pondexter had 23 points and eight rebounds against San Antonio (19-12) on July 8, and Essence Carson scored a season-high 25. However, that wasn't enough to help New York add to a five-game win streak in the series.
Jia Perkins scored a season-high 24 points in the 94-81 road victory, while Becky Hammon and Sophia Young had 23 and 21, respectively.
That win was among a franchise-record 12 in a row for the Silver Stars, but they've gone 3-7 since then. They failed to win their third straight Sunday, falling 80-70 to Tulsa.
The defeat dealt a serious blow to San Antonio's hopes of securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Silver Stars trail Los Angeles by 2 1/2 games for the No. 2 seed, though they hold the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head series.
A San Antonio loss or Sparks win over Phoenix on Tuesday would make the Silver Stars the No. 3 seed and give Los Angeles home court for the opening best-of-three series.
"We're not going to get any breaks. We're going to have to regroup," Hammon said.
The Silver Stars are seeking their first home win over New York since June 13, 2009, but they've gone 1-4 in their last five at the AT&T Center.
The Liberty will be trying for their first four-game win streak since July 1-13, 2011, a run that started with back-to-back victories over San Antonio.