Two years removed from earning WNBA MVP honors, Tina Charles is putting herself into the conversation for the award again, while trying to lead the New York Liberty back to the playoffs.
Charles and the surging Liberty visit the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night in a matchup of teams vying for postseason position in the tightly-bunched Eastern Conference.
New York (12-15) has won eight of 12 behind Charles, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds in an 83-76 road victory over first-place Atlanta on Sunday. The Liberty, who missed the postseason for the first time in four years in 2013 after finishing 11-23, won the season series with the defending East champion Dream 3-1.
"It was a must win as far as a playoff berth; Atlanta already has a playoff berth, we don’t," Charles said. "So we just came in here with great intensity and energy. We were doing all the little things. We only had three turnovers in the second half and that was the biggest thing, I think."
Charles has averaged 21.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in her last 11 contests. She’s the only player in the WNBA who ranks among the top five in scoring and rebounding, and her 18.4 points-per-game average is the highest of her career.
The center recorded 23 points and 12 boards in an 80-76 home win over the Mystics last Tuesday.
The clubs have split two meetings this season, with New York falling 68-60 in Washington on May 30 and winning 81-64 at Madison Square Garden on June 8.
The Mystics (13-15) are headed in the opposite direction, dropping two straight after winning six of seven. Washington surrendered 21 points to Elena Delle Donne, who played only 16 minutes, in a 76-65 loss at Chicago on Sunday.
The Mystics committed 19 turnovers, and while Emma Meesseman scored 17, the club’s other starters shot 31.5 percent. Ivory Latta scored 12 and went 4 of 13 from the field.
Washington never led, though it pulled within three in the third quarter on a 9-2 run.
"We had a brief recovery in the second and third quarter," coach Mike Thibault said. "We had a chance and then we gave it right back."