Toliver’s shooting lifts Mystics to 82-68 win over Liberty
NEW YORK (AP) Kristi Toliver admitted that she was nervous before the game for the first time she could remember.
Those nerves went away quickly as the Mystics guard scored 32 points, hitting a WNBA playoff-record nine 3-pointers, to lead Washington to an 82-68 victory over the New York Liberty on Sunday.
”I can’t remember the last time I was physically that nervous where my heart was pounding,” Toliver said. ”To me it affirmed how excited I was for this opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden in a playoff game.”
Toliver came to Washington in the offseason as a free agent hoping to lead the Mystics back to the postseason and beyond. She helped Los Angeles win a title last year.
”This is why we’re here. We knew we were capable,” Toliver said. ”Everyone’s buying in offensively and defensively. Everyone’s understanding their roles. When you’re good at it, anything can happen.”
The Mystics will face Minnesota in the best-of-five semifinals, starting Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
”They are a phenomenal teams, been to the finals so many times,” said Elena Delle Donne, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Mystics. ”They’ve got so many heads to the snake. We’ll watch a lot of film. We’ll enjoy this for a little bit.”
This is as far as the Mystics have gone in the playoffs since 2002 – the last time they made it out of the opening round of the postseason.
Washington found itself down 14 points in the first half before rallying to 41-35 at the break. Then Toliver took over. She scored 16 points in the third quarter, hitting all four of her 3-pointers in the period. She could only shrug and smile as the fourth one went in to give the Mystics a 57-46 advantage with 2:48 left in the third. She set the Mystics franchise record for points in a game by the end of the third quarter.
That 3-pointer, her eighth, also broke the previous WNBA record for 3-pointers made in a playoff game.
”Madison Square is where stars shine and I was lucky enough to be put in a position to be able to do that. I was going to let it fly today,” Toliver said. ”I don’t think I shot that many 3’s in a game. That’s why I’m here.”
New York could never recover.
The Liberty were led by Tina Charles, who had 18 points. It’s the second consecutive season that New York was a three-seed and lost its first postseason game.
”It’s disappointing that we’re not getting over the hump,” Charles said. ”You wish you could have boxed out or made that extra pass or not made that turnover. You always have those thoughts.”
3-POINT SPREE: Toliver broke the league record originally set by Mwadi Mabika of Los Angeles in 2000 and matched by Diana Taurasi twice as well as Becky Hammon and Deanna Nolan.
SUPER SCORING: Toliver topped the previous franchise record for points in a playoff game set by Chamique Holdsclaw in 2002 when she had 26.
Mystics: At Minnesota on Tuesday night for the semifinals.
Liberty: Season over.