Mystics-Liberty Preview

The Associated Press

Cappie Pondexter motivated the New York Liberty with her words before their most recent game. She's also provided a boost with her play on the court.

Pondexter will try for another big game Friday night while leading the Liberty to a sixth straight win over the Washington Mystics and third in 17 days.

With her team still stinging from an 85-67 drubbing to Los Angeles a day earlier, Pondexter gave a speech before Sunday's game in Atlanta. She also had 33 points - one shy of matching a season high - seven assists and six rebounds in an 88-82 victory.

"Cappie before the game was very vocal about how it's time to start winning some games, and for everybody to step up mentally and physically," coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She set the tone, no question about it."

The result helped New York (10-13) stay one-half game behind Washington (11-13) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

"It was about not wanting to leave and go overseas right now. That's seven months of being away from family and not enjoying home,'' Pondexter said. "If it's something to motivate us to play better, make the playoffs and advance, it's great motivation I think."

Pondexter has topped 20 points in each of the past three games and boosted her season average to 19.0, third-best in the league. She had 21 points in a 93-88 win over Washington on Aug. 6, and Alex Montgomery scored a career-high 21 off the bench while helping the Liberty overcome a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

That loss was part of a four-game skid for the Mystics, which began with an 88-78 home loss to New York on July 31, but they've since won two in a row. After snapping Minnesota's 18-game home win streak on Aug. 8, Washington held on for a 74-63 victory over visiting Connecticut on Sunday.

Crystal Langhorne had a team-best 18 points for the Mystics, who nearly blew a 21-point lead, and Ivory Latta contributed 14, including a key 3-pointer with 44.5 seconds left.

"We're just trying to survive in the playoff race," coach Mike Thibault said. "That's the only focus we have right now. That's all we talk to our players about."

Langhorne scored 24 points, made 10 of 14 shots and pulled down 11 rebounds in last week's loss at New York. She's averaging 18.8 points on 60.4 percent shooting in the last four games.

Langhorne was held to eight points in the season's first matchup between the teams on July 31. Kara Braxton had a season-high 22 points for New York and Pondexter added 19 despite missing 14 of 20 shots.

The Liberty have won three straight home games against the Mystics.

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