In order to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Washington Mystics must win Thursday when they visit the Atlanta Dream at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
That won't be easy against an Atlanta team that still has plenty of incentive to play well as it closes out the regular season.
Atlanta (16-16) is tied with the Indiana Fever for third place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference, one game behind the second-place Chicago Sky and 4 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Liberty. Chicago would be seeded fourth if the playoffs began today, but the Dream still has a chance to secure the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye.
Washington (13-19) is fifth in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Atlanta and Indiana. More importantly, the Mystics are one game behind the Phoenix Mercury for the final playoff spot.
One win by Phoenix or one loss by Washington would give the Mercury the No. 8 seed and eliminate the Mystics from playoff contention. Phoenix swept the season series against Washington and will hold the tiebreaker advantage should they finish with identical records.
The Mercury will play the Seattle Storm later Thursday night before concluding the regular season against the San Antonio Stars on Sunday. The Mystics will end the regular season Sunday against the Connecticut Sun.
Washington had lost two in a row to put its playoff hopes in peril before upsetting New York 75-62 on Tuesday. Stefanie Dolson had 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 19 points and six rebounds. The Mystics shot just 38.7 percent from the field, but they held the Liberty to 32.8-percent shooting.
Atlanta has lost two in a row and three of its last five. The Dream are coming off a 71-67 loss to San Antonio. Bria Holmes scored 20 points in the loss while Elizabeth Williams had 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Dream shot 30.7 percent from the field and made 2 of 18 from 3-point range while allowing the Stars to shoot 42.2 percent.