Mystics fall to Liberty

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Mystics fall to Liberty

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Trailing by nine points with about nine minutes remaining, a loss to last place Washington could have dealt a serious blow to the New York Liberty's playoff chances.

However, thanks to Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell and some stifling defense, the Liberty remain in control of their future.

Pondexter had 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and 11 rebounds as the Liberty rallied to beat the Mystics 75-68.

"Defense is our key," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "And Cappie. She's been awesome. She's our MVP and the most important player to her team of anybody in the league."

Powell scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter as well and Essence Carson added 15 points as New York (14-17) won its third straight.

The Liberty retained a one game lead over Chicago for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sky beat Phoenix 86-55.

Jasmine Thomas scored 16 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) and Monique Currie had 12 to lead the Washington (5-27), which has lost 11 straight.

"I think we played a tough game. We fought through until the end," Currie said. "They executed better than we did. They made some tough shots, some big shots."

After Washington scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 56-49 lead, Pondexter scored the first six of an 8-0 run by the Liberty. The Mystics pushed the lead to 63-58 with 4:36 left and New York called timeout.

"When it looked like they could take over the game with about four minutes left, we had a time out, talked about it, and regrouped," Pondexter said.

Powell's 3-pointer tied the score at 63 with 2:50 left and her short jumper gave the Liberty a 67-65 lead with 1:34 to play.

"Nicole made some huge shots down the stretch," Pondexter said.

After a miss by Currie, Kara Braxton scored on a layup off a nice pass from Pondexter to make it 69-65 with 48 seconds left.

"I think we stepped up our defensive intensity when it mattered most," Pondexter said.

Matee Ajavon missed a short jumper and Pondexter hit two three throws. Thomas's 3-pointer made it 71-68 with 19 seconds to go, but the Mystics got no closer.

"Coming into the stretch I don't know if it's a loss of focus, or what it is, but we have to figure it out," said Thomas.

The Liberty outrebounded the Mystics 13-4 in the fourth quarter.

"We only gave them one shot so we were blocking out well," Whisenant said. "Nicole Powell got a couple of rebound putbacks that were critical when the basket was shrinking up on us a little bit."

The Mystics' Ashley Robinson finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Washington outscored New York 19-12 in the third quarter and built a five-point lead as the Liberty hit just 5-of-22 field goals.

Washington played without leading scorer Crystal Langhorne (14.7 ppg), who left Friday's loss to Atlanta with a left foot sprain, and Noelle Quinn (6.5 ppg), out with an injured right shoulder.

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Sources: Wizards still in pursuit of trade for Pacers superstar Paul George

Sources: Wizards still in pursuit of trade for Pacers superstar Paul George

Even though Paul George remains the longest of shots, the Wizards haven't given up pursuit, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com, though there's a prevailing feeling that nothing will happen before free agency opens July 1.

The Boston Celtics appear to be the favorite in working out a deal with the Indiana Pacers to land the All-Star small forward, who is guaranteed $19.5 million for 2017-18 but will opt out of his contract next summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Pacers haven't been able to get the deal that they want just yet, and they've called teams around the league to gauge interest in what they could get for George.

[RELATED: All of these unlikely things must happen to pull off George trade]

The Wizards appear content to stand pat until the Pacers decide what to do. Keeping George, who has made it known that he wants to play for the L.A. Lakers, isn't an option for Indiana. By dealing him now, they'll at least get something for him rather than letting him walk for nothing one year from now.

Wizards point guard John Wall, who is good friends with George, is doing his best to recruit him to play in Washington with Bradley Beal to establish their own Big 3.

There's no guarantee, however, that will sustain. 

[RELATED: Why the Wizards make sense for Paul George]

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All of the unlikely things that must happen for the Wizards to trade for Paul George

All of the unlikely things that must happen for the Wizards to trade for Paul George

The words of John Wall has resurrected the talk of Paul George playing for the Wizards in 2017-18, but nothing has changed to improve the prospects of that happening.

1) George is under contract for $19.5 million with the Indiana Pacers before he enters a player option for 2018-19 that he’ll surely exercise to become an unrestricted free agent. The Wizards have to make Indiana an offer that it’ll accept but with understanding there no promises beyond that one year of George’s services.

2) Let’s say the Wizards put forth enough in a salary match such as Marcin Gortat’s $12.8 million for this season, Tomas Satoransky ($3 million) and first-round picks, which would come with a projected cap hold to make a deal work, would the Pacers want it? This isn’t the same as Blake Griffin opting out of his deal with the Clippers to become a free agent. A team can deal directly with him in the open market (and no, the Wizards can’t afford him). With George, the Pacers are the third party and can pull the plug on anything.

3) Any deal that involves Bradley Beal, who is under contract for four more years, is a no-go. Can’t have a Big 3 without him coming off his best season as a pro. And it would probably include Otto Porter being put into the deal for George. Porter, of course, doesn’t have any incentive to do a sign-and-trade because he gets significantly less in such a deal under the new CBA rules. He’d either have to really want to do the Wizards a solid or really love the prospect of being in Indianapolis.

4) Assume that George were to end up here and wanted to stay despite all of those hurdles. The money alone makes it a salary cap nightmare with Beal’s $25.4 million, Wall’s $19.1 million and Ian Mahinmi’s $15.9 million on the books when George would command a max of his own in the summer of 2018. To keep George around beyond (and he has even made it clear to Wall he wants to be in L.A.) would require financial gymnastics that aren't plausible.

5) Having George linger all season long in Indiana knowing he’s on his way out can be toxic. It’s better for the Pacers and the player that they move and not allow this situation to drag out. Otherwise, every time George has a bad game or the team underperforms they’ll face questions. Teammates and coaches will be bombarded with a season full of inquiries about the topic. It’ll be a lost year instead of one where they hit the reset. There’s no point of delaying the inevitable. Of course, the Pacers have taken this long knowing it was in the offing and haven’t moved on George. Or they're simply waiting for the Boston Celitcs to put together a package. With their assets and plethora of picks, the Celtics can afford to take a gamble on George for a year.

As CSNmidatlantic.com reported a few weeks ago, Wall wants to see where the franchise heading before he signs an extension as early as this summer. While a player the caliber of George would wow him now, what would the Wizards look like in two years without George, Porter and a few first-round picks?

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards reportedly extend qualifying offers to Porter, Bogdanovic