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Liberty maintains playoff hopes with win over Mystics

Natasha Howard scored 24 points, Sabrina Ionescu added 22 and New York Liberty keep their playoff hopes alive with a 91-80 win over the Washington Mystics on Friday night at Barclays Center.

The Liberty (12-20) need Washington to lose to Minnesota on Sunday and Los Angeles to lose to Dallas on that day as well. The Liberty, which ended an eight-game losing skid, hold the tiebreaker due to a better record against the other two teams.

Washington (12-19) would secure the No. 8 seed with a victory on Sunday. New York is trying to avoid missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Washington was missing trainer Mike Thibault, who is on COVID-19 protocols. He will also miss the team’s last game on Sunday against Minnesota. His son, Eric, coached the match in his absence.

Betnijah Laney took the mic before the game and asked the crowd to energize the team and the Liberty loyalists responded. New York went 26-15 after a quarter as Howard had 11 points, making all five of his shots.

Sabrina Ionescu, who scored 22 points, heads for the basket in Liberty’s 91-80 win over the Washington Mystics.
NBAE via Getty Images

New York stayed the course in the second quarter, extending the lead to 20 over Rebecca Allen’s 3-pointers with 2:28 left in the half. It was New York’s 317th of the season to set a WNBA record, surpassing Washington’s mark set in 2019.

Liberty, who finished the season with 321-3, managed seven of their 11 3-point first-half attempts and led 46-29 at the break.

The lead extended to 24 before Washington rallied to reduce it to 79-74 with 5:03 to go. New York scored eight of the next 10 points to sideline the game.

Ariel Atkins scored 29 points to lead Washington.