Mystics-Liberty Preview

The Associated Press

A favorable September schedule has given the New York Liberty hope of gaining a playoff spot.

That stretch begins Saturday when the Liberty look to snap a three-game skid in a home matchup with the league-worst Washington Mystics.

New York (9-16) dropped one-half game behind Chicago for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with Thursday's 76-63 defeat to Indiana in the opener of a six-game homestand. The Liberty have lost by an average of 18.7 points during their slide.

There is, however, reason for optimism. Seven of New York's nine remaining games are against losing teams, including three matchups with Washington (5-20).

The Liberty also have six remaining contests at home.

"We're going to keep plugging and we feel like we can make the playoffs," coach John Whisenant said. "If we can just correct some of our flaws, then that's what we're going to try and do."

One of those flaws Thursday was sloppiness. New York's 21 turnovers led to 20 points for the Fever.

"We turn the ball over 21 times, any team would capitalize off that and Indiana did," guard Cappie Pondexter said. "We were a step slow and it could be a number of reasons, coming off a nine-day round trip and one day to prepare."

Pondexter, who leads the league with 20.7 points per game, and Essence Carson had 18 points apiece. New York won three of its first four following the Olympic break before this losing streak.

The Liberty went into the break on a negative note with a 70-53 home loss to the Mystics on July 13 the last time these teams met. Pondexter was the only New York player in double figures with 22 points, as the Liberty finished with 22 turnovers and made 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

That remains Washington's biggest victory of the season and its only one in its last 22 games on the road. The Mystics have dropped four straight overall and five in a row on the road following Thursday's 82-59 loss at Atlanta.

Washington led by two points at halftime before being outscored 51-26 the rest of the way.

"They came at us, were physical and took it to us," coach Trudi Lacey said. "Once they made the run, it snowballed."

Starting guard Matee Ajavon - a Newark native - has failed to score in consecutive games, missing all 11 shots with a team-high 11 turnovers in that span.

Top scorer Crystal Langhorne has been at her best in two games against New York this year, averaging 24.0 points on 64.5 percent shooting. Langhorne is looking to bounce back after averaging 12.4 points in August for her lowest figure in any month this year.

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