New York Liberty can’t handle Mystics, Delle Donne in Saturday matinee (Highlights)

The New York Liberty suffered a season sweep at the hands of the Mystics, unable to contain All-Star captain Elena Delle Donne.

It doesn’t matter who you are. You probably won’t win many games when Elena Delle Donne shoots 12-for-16.

The WNBA MVP candidate led the way with 30 points and 10 rebounds, picking up a double-double en route to the Washington Mystics’ third win of the season over the New York Liberty, completing a season sweep to the tune of a 95-78 victory.

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Down to 10 players with injuries to Shavonte Zellous and Epiphanny Prince, the Liberty (7-17) did what they could with limited resources, but couldn’t keep up with the Mystics’ firepower. Once Delle Donne got some help, primarily from fellow All-Star Kristi Toliver (19 points), the Liberty couldn’t keep pace, even with a strong fourth quarter. The Liberty are now five games out the WNBA’s final playoff spot with ten games left to play.

“It’s going to be rough, trying to get in (the playoffs),” Smith said. “I think for us, it’s going out every night and being proud of what we did. Wins or losses, not sure, it’s tough to win in the league. But for us, it’s about going out with nothing to lose and showing up every night, just trying to improve what we’re doing, surprise some folks by getting a few wins.”

3rd Star: Kia Nurse

The ultimate question around basketball circles is when the rookie Nurse, who eclipsed 20 minutes for the second time in three games, is going to earn more time on the court. After she and fellow guard Rebecca Allen came on the floor to give the team a fourth-quarter spark (New York won the frame 25-20), head coach Katie Smith hinted that the final stages of the season could bring new opportunities for Nurse.

“Her defense is always going to be good. She’s always out there getting fouls called on the other team, flying around on defense,” Smith said. “She knocked down some shots tonight. I think she’s had a nice stretch … She just needs to continue to read the defense, take what they give her. We know the effort and energy she’s going to play with.”

Nurse scored 10 points, all in the fourth quarter, to reach double figures for the 10th time this season.

2nd Star: Tina Charles

Another game, another milestone for Charles, one of three All-Stars on the floor, as she became the second players in Liberty history to reach 3,000 points. Per usual, she led the Liberty with 22 points.

Even in these dire times, Charles continues to be a leader for New York. She’s pleased to see that the word “quit” has not entered the team’s vocabulary. She believed there were positives to glean from the strong final quarter.

“What we did in the fourth, we have to do for four quarters. That’s the only thing,” Charles said. “That effort, that energy we brought, whether we’re making shots or not, that’s how we have to consistently play.”

1st Star: Sugar Rodgers

Rodgers returned to the starting lineup for the first time since opening night in Chicago back on May 20, and rose to the occasion, sinking four three-pointers in the first half. She tied her season-high with 16 points, and those outside shots allowed her to pass Cappie Pondexter for fourth on the franchise’s all-time three-point field goal list, currently at 238 and counting.

“My three-ball was working,” Rodgers said. “We just got to keep our heads up and keep playing. Every night’s going to be tough, but we just got to keep the team spirit.”

How It Was Decided

Limiting Delle Donne’s help, the Liberty had cut into Washington’s late first-half lead, working things to a manageable eight-point margin by the halftime buzzer. However, the Mystics (14-10) shot an astonishing 12-of-16 from the field in the third quarter, putting the Liberty away with a 32-18 tally. A strong final quarter showing from the reserves went for naught.

Games Notes

  • With their 17th loss, the Liberty will not have a winning season for the first time since 2014.
  • Marissa Coleman rejoined the starting lineup, starting for the first time since suffering her ankle injury on June 22 in Las Vegas.

What's Next

In their final game before the All-Star break, the Liberty will take on the Minnesota Lynx for the third time this season (8:00 p.m., ESPN2). They’ll look to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the defending champions, previously dropping an 85-71 decision at Target Center on June 16. Tina Charles will represent the Liberty at the All-Star festivities in Minneapolis next Sunday.

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