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Liberty-Mystics Preview

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At the end of June, it looked like the New York Liberty were going to struggle to return to the playoffs. The way they're playing now, finishing atop the Eastern Conference is a legitimate goal - especially after acquiring Kara Braxton.

Braxton is expected to make her debut as New York looks to win for the ninth time in 12 games Saturday night when it visits the conference-worst Washington Mystics.

The Liberty reached the East finals last season and had their sights set on advancing to the WNBA finals this year, but a 4-5 record in June put a damper on those expectations.

New York, though, has turned things around by winning eight of 11 and is in a three-way race with Indiana and Connecticut for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

The Liberty (12-8) made a move Thursday to try to separate themselves from the Fever and Sun, obtaining Braxton from Phoenix in exchange for forward Sidney Spencer.

The 6-foot-6 Braxton, who was on Detroit's championship teams in 2006 and 2008, averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18 games for the Mercury this season. She is among the league leaders in field-goal shooting at 55.9 percent.

"Kara is an All-Star player with championship experience that has been successful in the league for a number of years and will make an immediate impact on the court," Liberty coach and general manager John Whisenant said in a statement.

"We feel this move increases our depth in the post and sets us up for further success as we look to build a championship caliber team."

The Liberty won their second in a row Thursday, holding Chicago to a WNBA-record one point in the fourth quarter in a 59-49 victory at home.

"I don't know if we played that well defensively in any single game this season," said guard Cappie Pondexter, who had a game-high 15 points. "To see that just shows you how we're staying with our game plan, how hard we're working, and how much we're believing in Coach Whis' defense."

New York didn't play well defensively at home against Washington (3-14) on July 28, but it came away with a 75-71 win despite the Mystics shooting a season-best 50.9 percent.

Pondexter led the way for the Liberty with 19 points, while Crystal Langhorne had 18 for the Mystics. That was the third of four straight losses for Washington, which has dropped nine of 10.

The Mystics have had some time to think about their last defeat. They haven't played since July 29, when Indiana's Shannon Bobbitt made a floating layup at the buzzer to win 61-59 in the nation's capital.

Washington has lost its last three by a combined 12 points.

"We're continuing to play hard; we just need to figure out how to close out games," Langhorne told the Mystics' official website. "We're playing close games every time out, so now we need to figure out how to win at the end."

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