As the Washington Mystics hope to continue their push toward a second straight playoff appearance, the Indiana Fever look to tie them for second place in the Eastern Conference and begin a turnaround.
The visiting Mystics will try for their eighth victory in 10 games Friday night when they attempt to send the inconsistent Fever to their seventh defeat in 10 contests.
Following a 6-1 stretch in July, Washington (14-15) dropped consecutive contests at New York and Chicago before getting back on track with a convincing 79-46 win over the Liberty on Tuesday.
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The Mystics went on a 29-6 first-half run, led 37-22 at the break and outscored New York 27-13 in the third quarter.
"Actually got to relax for a fourth quarter. Obviously a great win," said coach Mike Thibault, who guided the club to its first playoff appearance in three years upon taking over in 2013. "We played well at both ends."
Ivory Latta led four starters in double figures with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including four 3-pointers. The guard has averaged 16.5 points – 4.1 above her season mark – in six games since playing in her second straight All-Star game on July 19.
Latta, however, has struggled in this year’s three meetings with Indiana (13-16), totaling 34 points while missing 19 of 26 shots.
Washington won 79-63 in Indianapolis on May 23 but dropped the next two matchups in the nation’s capital by a total of six points.
Now the Mystics look to take the series finale while holding on to their slim edge over Indiana and Chicago for second place.
Washington holds opponents to a conference-best 40.9 percent from the field and is facing an Indiana team which is one of the league’s worst shooting teams at 41.8 percent.
The Fever shot 36.9 percent despite hitting 7 of 14 from 3-point range in Tuesday’s 66-64 home loss to Minnesota. They nearly ended the defending champion’s nine-game win streak before Seimone Augustus scored off a rebound as time expired.
"It’s unfortunate we didn’t do something (against Minnesota) that really would have given us some momentum," coach Lin Dunn told the team’s official website.
Indiana’s Karima Christmas had 15 points after going scoreless in Saturday’s 79-69 loss at Phoenix.
Erlana Larkins added 13 points and 11 rebounds for her ninth double-double. She’s averaged 12.0 points and 10.0 boards in the three meetings with Washington.
The Fever have gone 5-7 since forward Tamika Catchings returned from injury. The nine-time All-Star, who has averaged 14.8 points in 12 games, scored 12 on 5-of-12 shooting Tuesday after missing all 10 of her field-goal attempts Saturday.
Indiana, which hasn’t missed the postseason since 2004, has a half-game lead on New York for the East’s final playoff spot.