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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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir look at each of the Caps' free agents and talk about who could be back and who will be moving on. They also look at how the Caps' fared in the World Championship and which prospects could make the jump to the NHL next season.

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play and give us a good review! Maybe we'll even read it on the air. For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

RELATED: Caps release key offseason dates

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Wizards value strong connection with Otto Porter as he enters restricted free agency

Wizards value strong connection with Otto Porter as he enters restricted free agency

During the All-Star break, when Otto Porter should've been in New Orleans launching red, white and blue moneyballs in the three-point contest, he was buried under a hood of a car in Morley, Mo.

The 6-8 forward for the Wizards, who'll be extended a qualfying offer to make him a restricted free agent this summer, wouldn't have it any other way. He ignored the clamoring for the NBA to put one of the league's top long-ball shooters in 2016-17 in the contest. He'd rather bond with his father and listen to his family's vintage Plymouth Road Runner hum. 

What can I say.. it's in my DNA!!😱😱 #moparperformance #roadrunner #69 #hoosier

A post shared by Otto Porter Jr. (@ottodayporter22) on

"Home is where the heart is. Why would you change that?" said Porter, who spent All-Star week in his hometown at his parents' house which is the same place he grew up. "Population of 700. Probably 699 now that I left."

That's Porter. He cooled after a blistering start to his fourth season, second as a starter, to average 13.4 points, 51.6% overall shooting and 43.4% from thee-point range. All were career-highs as were his 6.4 rebounds.

The Wizards aren't in the same position as they were last summer with Bradley Beal, who was a restricted free agent. They moved quickly to re-sign him to $128 million. They'll have less room under the cap this time coupled with Porter being a completely different player.

[RELATED: Wizards hope to sign Wall to contract extension]

Wall and Beal are the two best players who are at their best with the ball because they create for others, too. Porter is best off the ball, as he relies on movement, angles and spotting up to get his shots.

Every good team needs someone like Porter, who won't pout if he doesn't get a 15 shots each night and will sacrifice for the greater good. He's ego-less. But does that mean the Wizards won't dig deep to pay $100 million-plus to retain his services? They could qualify him at 125% of this season's $5.9 million salary which woould officially make him restricted, allow him to test the market and bring back an offer sheet and if he does they'll have 72 hours to match it. If the offer sheet is low, that works in the Wizards' favor. If it's at the higher end and they don't match it, Porter walks and nothing is gained in return.

Free agency is a supply-and-demand market like any other industry. If there's a dearth of talent available and a lot of teams are in need of that product -- see Beal last summer with the next best shooting guard Dwyane Wade -- the pricetag skyrockets. After Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, neither of whom are in the Wizards' wheelhouse, there's Danilo Gallinari (five years older, injury prone), Rudy Gay (seven years older, coming off Achilles tear), Andre Igoudala (nine years older) and the like.

Porter, however, has another thing going for him. He's theirs. The Wizards developed him after a hip injury slowed him as a rookie and he spent his sophomore season as an apprentice under Paul Pierce. The Wizards moved up in the 2013 lottery from eighth to No. 3 which put them in position to draft what they considered to be the safest bet. While the Cleveland Cavaliers bombed with Anthony Bennett at No. 1 and the Orlando Magic gambled on Victor Oladipo at No. 2 only to trade him last season, the Wizards' selection never was in doubt. 

If the Wizards were to come to terms with Wall on a veteran extension that could approach $170 million, that likely would limit what they could offer Porter. But there are a lot of moving pieces to the puzzle before figuring out a number that would work for both sides.

Porter spent two years at Georgetown. His agent, David Falk, is here, too. There's no drama with Porter, who avoided the AAU circuit as an elite high school player. He prefers to keep it simple which is in perfect line with how he was raised.

"That's just how I grew up playing basketball, with my father and my family. We didn't need AAU, really," he said. "We had so much family that was my AAU."

[RELATED: Smacking some sense into the Jordan-LeBron and MVP debates]

When he goes back to Morley, he stays with his parents. He gets the house all to himself when his brother is at college. He'd much rather talk about cars than the business of the NBA and contracts.

"That's my second love. Not a question. That's just something I enjoy off the court," Porter said of being a mechanic. "Majority of the day. Everyday, really.

"My father, his brothers always worked on cars. I was always around when they were fixing cars up. I took a big interest in cars when I was young. It's relaxing to my mind, body and my soul."

He'll be 24 next month. Porter exploded for a career-high 34 points and 14 rebounds in a Nov. 9 win the Boston Celtics,  He had 32 and 14 in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks the following month.

Before the calendar year ended, he had five double-doubles which was equal to his output in his first three NBA seasons. Under first-year coach Scott Brooks, he had more freedom and opportunities to score.

The attention to Wall and Beal often left Porter as the forgotten man spotting up on the weakside, awaiting ball reversals or skip passes for wide-open looks. He can still have trouble with physical players at small forward but he flourishes when moved over to the stretch four spot in small lineups. What happens with restricted free agent Bojan Bogdanovic and rising third-year forward Kelly Oubre, who has a fourth-year option coming in October, will factor in as well. 

While it may sound cliche when other players say things like this about their contract status, every bit of Porter's words are genuine.

"It is what it is," he said. "I'm going to continue what I've been doing. Continue to work. If everything work itself out, it will. ... A lot of people are surprised but with me it's like, 'I saw this coming a long time ago.'"

Porter played a career-high 80 games, five more than he did in 2015-16, which is surprising when considering how his right hip flared up on him several times. He often rode an exercise bike to stay loose on game nights.

To get past the second round of the playoffs, where the Wizards' season has ended in three of the last four years, the roster will need a tune up. In a perfect world, Porter would remain one of their spark plugs.

[RELATED: Wall should have been All-NBA 2nd team over Isaiah Thomas]