Mystics rally falls short vs. Liberty

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Mystics rally falls short vs. Liberty

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cappie Pondexter scored 25 points, the New York Liberty took control with a 30-5 first-half run and survived a frantic fourth quarter for their first road victory of the season, 76-70 over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.

Leilani Mitchell hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for the Liberty, winners of three straight after opening the season 0-5. The latest victory also snapped a five-game losing streak in Washington dating to the 2009 season. The Liberty lost their three previous road games this season by an average of 21.3 points.

New York shot 60 percent (21 of 35) from the field in the first half, including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and held a 29 point with just under nine minutes 9 in the second quarter.

Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics (1-5) with 24 points.

Trailing 65-45 late in the third quarter, the Mystics pulled closer when Langhorne fueled a 15-2 run, followed by a spree of 3-point field goals. Matee Ajavon drilled her second from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter with 1:37 remaining as Washington trailed 73-70, but Essence Carson countered with a 3-pointer of her own on New York's next possession.

Langhorne scored 10 points during the second-half rally. In her first start this season, Michelle Snow finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

With the Liberty leading 12-8 midway through the first quarter, Pondexter's running layup started a 13-0 run. Up 27-13, New York had a 15-0 spurt capped by Carson's three-point play that made it 42-13. Pondexter had 16 points in the first half, while Mitchell was perfect on three attempts from beyond the arc.

The Liberty's recent good fortune has coincided with increased production from the starting backcourt.

After failing to score 20 points in the opening five games, Pondexter has topped that mark in three straight, averaging 25.3 points. In that span, Mitchell has connected on 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) 3-point attempts.

Carson finished with 13 points for the Liberty.

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Redskins RB Thompson still will be nervous on cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still will be nervous on cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program. But he says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club. “For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

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Best unrestricted free-agent point guards to help Wizards back up John Wall

Best unrestricted free-agent point guards to help Wizards back up John Wall

John Wall and Bradley Beal were uniform in their message about where the Wizards were lacking in 2016-17, and it was the backups in a 49-win season. 

In a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, the Wizards relied on Beal for 45 minutes and Wall, who shot 0-for-11 in tthe second half, for 44. 

Specifically, let's focus on point guards. Trey Burke couldn't do the the job early in the season and coach Scott Brooks had to find ways to take the ball out of his hands to keep him on the floor. Then the Wizards signed Brandon Jennings as a free agent, who had better moments but remained a low-efficiency shooter and defensive liability. 

They represented a major step down from Ramon Sessions, who spent the previous two seasons behind Wall. Sessions, however, was a shoot-first point guard who lacked three-point range and wasn't strong on pick-and-roll coverages.

The Wizards don't have a lot of cap room so whoever they bring in has to be relatively affordable and willing to accept a backup role. If they require starters' minutes or money, they're not an option with Wall and Beal firmly in place.

5. Ty Lawson (Kings): The 5-11 point guard had a bit of a bounce back season. He averaged 9.9 points and 4.9 assists. Lawson doesn't stretch the floor as well as others on this list, shooting a career-low 28.8% from three-point range in 69 appearances. His issues with alcohol has made him a risky proposition for most teams but he was formerly a quality starter who probably can be had for a reasonable price. He earned the vet minimum $1.3 million.

[RELATED: NBA Draft: Targets for Wizards In Round Two]

4. Deron Williams (Mavs/Cavs): A 6-3 point guard, he accepted a reduced role to compete for a championship with 11.0 points, 5.6 assists and 36.3% three-point shooting. His final year of his deal netted him $14.8 million but that'll plummet signficantly if he hopes to continue playing for contenders. On the downside, he'll be 33 and can be injury-prone.

3. Darren Collison (Kings): Also a 6-foot point guard, Collison averaged 13.2 points, 4.6 assists and a career-high 41.7% from three-point range. He also started 64 games in earning $5.2 million. He has been a backup most of his career. 

2. Shaun Livingston (Warriors): The biggest point guard on this list, the Wizard had the 6-7 Livingston as he tried to rebuild his career after a catastrophic knee injury but he was cut by Randy Wittnan during the 2012-13 season. He's averaging just 5.1 points off the bench for Golden State and isn't a three-point shooter but he can get his own shot. He shot 54.7% from the field overall in earning $5.7 million. 

1. Patty Mills (Spurs): A 6-foot point guard, he averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 assists and shot 41.3% from three-point range in his sixth season in San Antonio. Mills earned $3.2 million in 22 minutes per game off the bench. He can handle the ball, run the offense, stretch the floor and has developed into a good perimeter defender. Mills has never started more than eight games in his eight-year career.

(Langston Galloway might've made this list but he has a player option with the Kings. He could hit the unrestricted free agent market, too.)

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast - Breaking down a possible Wall extension]