NEW YORK — With the game on the line, TIna Charles and the New York Liberty turned up their defensive pressure and pulled away from the Washington Mystics.
Charles and Epiphanny Prince each scored 20 points and the Liberty held the Mystics to just two points in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter to beat Washington 74-66 on Friday night.
“We take pride in our defense,” Charles said. “Being aggressive and doing what we do out there.”
The Liberty (19-12) have won seven straight and moved 1 1/2 games in front of Washington (17-13) for the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Liberty, who are on their longest winning streak since 2010 when they won 10 straight, hold the tiebreaker with the Mystics.
“This was a big win for us and was important in the standings,” New York’s Shavonte Zellous said.
The Liberty led by one heading into the fourth quarter before holding Washington to just six points in the fourth quarter. The Liberty scored 11 of the first 13 points in the period to extend the advantage to 72-62 with 1:42 left in the game.
Emma Meesseman’s layup with just over a minute left was the Mystics second basket of the quarter and got them within eight. Elena Delle Donne then scored to get Washington within six, but that’s as close as they could get.
“We really struggled,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “We didn’t make a lot of outside shots. Their double teams were good. They made some weak shots in the fourth quarter that we didn’t make.”
Delle Donne had been sidelined since the beginning of August with a torn ligament in her left thumb. The Mystics’ leading scorer missed six games and Washington went 3-3. She finished with 15 points.
“They were throwing good double teams and we were making extra passes, we just weren’t able to hit,” said Delle Donne. “They have great defense and that’s what they’re known for.”
Krystal Thomas led the Mystics with 17 points.
AWARD TIME: Ivory Latta was awarded the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award by the WNBA on Friday. Latta’s work off the court includes a recent autobiographical children’s book titled “Despite the Height,” in which the diminutive guard described playing and thriving through the adversity of being an undersized (5-foot-6) basketball player.
Mystics: hosts Dallas on Saturday.
Liberty: hosts Chicago on Sunday.