Mystics' slump returns in 74-66 loss to Liberty

Holdsclaw gets 23 points

team now tied for second

Pro Basketball

August 10, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Mystics' downward trek slowed Thursday when they blitzed the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden to end a seven-game losing streak that had cast them out of first place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference.

As it turns out, it was only a momentary break in the Mystics' fall as the Liberty returned the favor with a 74-66 win at MCI Center last night that clinched the top seed in next week's Eastern Conference playoffs for New York.

The Mystics (16-14), who harassed and pressured New York all over the Garden 24 hours earlier, found themselves receiving similar treatment on their home court before a crowd of 18,234.

As a result, Washington, which had led the East for most of the season, found itself not only eliminated from winning the conference title, but also tied with the Charlotte Sting, which beat the Minnesota Lynx last night. Each team has two games left to play.

"It's kind of depressing, but you just have to keep pressing on and keep pushing," said Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw, who had a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds on her 25th birthday. "In the first half, we just didn't play our game, but in the second half, we played great basketball. We control our own destiny. We just have to keep fighting."

Washington, which clinched a playoff spot Thursday, trailed throughout , falling behind by 12 at the half. However, the Mystics cut it to two on three occasions midway through the second half.

But each time Washington would get close enough to put heat on New York, the Liberty (18-12), which has advanced to the finals three times in the league's six seasons, would respond.

New York's decisive 10-0 run that expanded the lead to 12, and put the game away, was powered by its veteran core of Crystal Robinson, Vickie Johnson and Becky Hammon. The Liberty trio, which shot a combined 9-for-30 from the floor Thursday, connected for 14 of their 24 shots last night.

Backup guard Hammon was especially effective, going 6-for-7, including 5-for-6 from three-point range, for a career-high 22 points.

"Shooting is like that. It's all percentages," Hammon said. "You might miss your first two or three, and then you might make your next five. You can't quit shooting. Our teammates have a ton of confidence in us that even if we do miss a couple, they're still coming to us. As a shooter, you just concentrate. Our posts did a great job of setting screens and [point guard Teresa Weather] Spoon did a great job of finding us, and we got some open looks. We had a split second to get our feet set, which makes a difference."

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