Mystics look to rebound vs. Liberty

WASHINGTON — The New York Liberty visit the Washington Mystics for the second time in eight days when the teams meet Thursday night at Capital One Arena.

The Mystics (10-6) are in first place in the East and boast the conference’s reigning player of the week and month in Elena Delle Donne.

The 2015 WNBA MVP ranked first among Eastern Conference players in scoring (22.5 points per game), second in blocked shots (1.88) and sixth in rebounding (6.8) during June. She also made 43 of 44 free throws for a WNBA-best 97.7 percent.

Delle Donne and the Mystics saw their four-game winning streak snapped by the Phoenix Mercury 84-74 on Saturday night.

A 10-3 Washington run made it 77-74 with under a minute remaining before Yvonne Turner’s 3-pointer pushed the margin back to six, and the Western Conference co-leaders sank late free throws to seal the win.

“I thought we had some chances,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “We had it cut to four and we ended up fouling. They made one, then it’s a five-point game; and then we came down and missed two possessions in a row and now you’re out of time.”

Delle Donne had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Mystics.

“I think it was more miscues offensively. Just trying to attack and make reads that maybe we weren’t all on the same page about,” Delle Donne said of the loss. “They’re big and you have to kind of space them out and unfortunately we just weren’t able to make a bunch of good plays in a row.”

The Liberty (5-12) held a 26-23 lead over visiting Seattle with five minutes left in the second quarter Tuesday night, but the Storm went on a 16-2 run to end the half and ultimately defeated the Liberty 77-62.

Coming off back-to-back games with over 95 points, the Liberty offense couldn’t get much going against the Storm. Their 62-point output was their second-lowest of the season.

“They got a lot of easy buckets. If you are not scoring, you can’t let the other team score,” New York coach Katie Smith said. “At times, we couldn’t get a shot off or run through our offense. Sometimes you aren’t going to hit shots, but you can’t allow them to get easy baskets like that.”

After a scoreless first half, Bria Hartley exploded for 14 points in the third quarter, notching the 1,000th point of her career. The fifth-year player finished with a team-high 16 points.

Amanda Zahui B added 13 points for the Liberty and has scored in double figures in five of her last seven appearances but Tina Charles was held to eight on 3 of 14 shooting.

The loss was the New York’s sixth in its past seven games.

One of those losses was an 80-77 decision at Washington on June 28. Delle Donne led Washington with 22 points. The Liberty got 21 from Epiphanny Prince and 18 from Charles.