Charles, Liberty beat Mystics 79-74 to reach East finals

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NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles scored 22 points and Sugar Rodgers added 20 to help the top-seeded New York Liberty beat the Washington Mystics 79-74 on Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2010.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana will be Wednesday because the Pope is coming to New York and will be at MSG on Friday.

Trailing 72-71 with 1:46 left, Kiah Stokes hit a layup off a nifty assist from Rodgers. After a steal on the other end by Rodgers, she hit a layup with 58 seconds left to give New York a three-point lead. Ivory Latta hit two free throws with 42.5 seconds left to pull Washington to 75-74.

With the shot clock running down, Epiphanny Prince hit a 15-footer, only her second basket of the game to make it a three-point game with 20 seconds left. Washington had one final chance but Latta’s 3-pointer was blocked with 5 seconds left and New York held on for the win.

Latta scored 18 points to lead the Mystics.

Washington opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 51-47 lead. Emma Meesseman had six of those points for the Mystics.

Charles wouldn’t let the Liberty go away. After missing 11 of her first 16 shots, Charles hit a jumper from the top of the key and then had a putback. Wiggins hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game at 57 heading into the final quarter.

The Mystics jumped out all over New York hitting five of its first seven 3-pointers to go up 25-13 with 16 seconds left in the first quarter. New York looked like the second top-seed in the East ready to fall in the opening round after Indiana knocked off No. 2 Chicago on Monday night. But Kiah Stokes had a putback just before the buzzer that made it a 10-point game and gave the Liberty momentum heading into the second quarter.

Rodgers and Candice Wiggins helped New York score 16 of the next 18 points to take control of the game. Rodgers’ layup made it 28-27 with 5:11 left in the period and gave New York its first lead of the game. She was just getting started, scoring 10 of the Liberty’s next 13 points sending the crowd into a frenzy. A 3-pointer by Wiggins was the other basket during that spurt. She ran down the court pumping her fists after the shot swished through the net.

While the attendance couldn’t match the 10,000 that showed up for Game 1, the crowd did include WNBA President Laurel J. Richie, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and No. 1 New York fan Spike Lee, who sat courtside. Indiana Fever players and staff were in attendance at the game after flying to New York earlier Tuesday.

The Liberty led 45-37 at the half.

New York center Carolyn Swords didn’t play after injuring her foot in Game 2 on Sunday which the Liberty won by 18 points. The Mystics were victorious in the opener, winning in double overtime.

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AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

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Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.