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Liberty beat Lynx 70-61 to clinch spot in WNBA playoffs

August 21, 2017
Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones (35) and Alyssa Thomas (25) grab for a defensive rebound against Phoenix Sun's Emma Cannon (10) during a WNBA basketball game in Uncasville, Conn., Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day via AP)
Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones (35) and Alyssa Thomas (25) grab for a defensive rebound against Phoenix Sun's Emma Cannon (10) during a WNBA basketball game in Uncasville, Conn., Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Tina Charles scored 19 points and Epiphanny Prince added 15 to help New York Liberty beat top-ranked Minnesota Lynx 70-61 on Sunday, clinching a WNBA playoff berth.

The Liberty have won five straight games, including beating the top three teams in the league the past three contests, and are second behind Connecticut in the Eastern Conference.

The Washington Mystics also secured a playoff spot with a 87-82 win in Indianapolis, joining the Liberty with 17 wins and 12 losses.

Connecticut had a 94-66 win over Phoenix to hold top spot in the conference and the Seattle Storm pounded Chicago 103-66.

At New York, the Liberty trailed by 11 in the first half before cutting its deficit to five at the half. The Liberty took the lead for good in the third quarter on two free throws by Sugar Rodgers with 40 seconds left in the period.

Maya Moore scored 22 points to lead the Lynx (22-6), who were missing starters Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson to injuries.

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said all season that come August he’ll know a lot more about his team. Right now, New York is one of the best teams in the WNBA.

“We said all along that we’d have a better idea of who we are this month,” Laimbeer said. “Everyone is accepting their roles.”

At Indianapolis, Emma Meesseman scored 21 points and Kristi Toliver had 12 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mystics beat the Fever.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt also scored 18 points, Ivory Latta added 10 and Krystal Thomas had nine points and 11 rebounds for Washington.

After Marissa Coleman hit a 3-pointer to cap a 19-6 run that gave Indiana (9-21) its first lead of the second half, Toliver answered with a 3 of her own to give the Mystics a 67-66 lead with 6:24 remaining. Two minutes later, Toliver hit another 3-pointer to give Washington a five-point lead and, after the Fever tied it at 72-all, Toliver converted a three-point play with 3:06 to go and the Mystics led the rest of the way. She hit another 3 — her fifth of the game — to make it 82-75 with 1:17 left and Washington hit 5 of 6 free throws from there to seal it.

Coleman made a career-best six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 20 points for Indiana and Candice Dupree scored 18 and had seven assists. The Fever, who have lost four in a row, were eliminated from playoff contention.

The Connecticut Sun led by a point — 46-45 at halftime, but limited Phoenix to just 21 second-half points.

Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Jonquel Jones added 20 points and eight rebounds for the Sun.

Brittney Griner led Phoenix (15-14) with 18 points, and Monique Curry had 12. The Mercury shot just 33.8 percent (24 of 71) from the field, their second-worst shooting percentage of the season.

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