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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