- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

The Washington Mystics wore out the New York Liberty in Game1. Now they want to finish the deal to reach their first WNBA finals.
The Mystics were the stronger, fresher team and had more resolve down the stretch of Thursday's victory at MCI Center. But for tonight's Game 2 at Madison Square Garden, the Mystics can count on the Liberty defending their home court and fighting harder than they did in the opener.
New York will have to the WNBA's best-of-3 format doesn't reward the higher-seeded team with the first home game, something the Liberty lamented before the series. Now they must win two in a row to advance.
They've done it before, and the Mystics need just look at the last series New York won and its playoff history for evidence. The Indiana Fever won the conference semifinal opener at home but the Liberty took the final two games easily to win the series, the third time in five playoff series victories since 1999 that the Liberty lost the first game on the road, then won two at home.
"We know what New York is capable of," Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. "Indiana was in the same position we are in now, and they didn't get it done in New York. Our challenge is to go up there and get it done."
But the Mystics can take some comfort in that they have won in New York already this season, taking a 65-54 decision on Aug.8. The Liberty went 10-6 at the Garden this season and are 8-5 there in their playoff history, including a victory over the Mystics in the 2000 playoffs.
"We need one more win, and we have an opportunity to go in and do it on Saturday," said Stacey Dales-Schuman, who had nine points and a key late steal in Thursday's 79-74 victory. "We beat them at home. We played in that environment; we know how it feels."
Stocked with savvy veterans with a wealth of postseason experience, the Liberty's aging legs seemed to betray them Thursday. New York had just one day off after its conference semifinal series against Indiana, which finished Tuesday, while the Mystics had not played since beating Charlotte on Saturday.
"The 11 games in 21 days [since Aug.[ThSp]2] caught up to us in the second half," Liberty coach Richie Adubato said after the game. "The four days' rest they had showed up. I probably should have used my bench more. We'll have to look at that for Saturday, so we can stay a little fresher."
From his bench, Adubato only used guard Becky Hammon for 24 minutes and forward Sue Wicks for a combined 30 minutes. Center Tari Phillips had a game-high 21 points but didn't score in the game's last 9:29 while playing a total of 39 minutes.
Both teams canceled scheduled practices yesterday in favor of resting for tonight's game.
New York also faltered down the stretch, committing two turnovers in the final 2:01. After being tied 67-67 with 4:28 to go, the Mystics went on a 12-5 burst until the Liberty scored a meaningless basket at the buzzer) thanks to Holdsclaw, who dished two assists and scored eight of those last 12 points in the final five minutes.
"She recognized situations that she could take advantage of," Stanley said yesterday. "She read the defense, and whatever it was she seemed to ready to play well. You don't want to force things, but she can't neglect her own offense."
The Mystics got away with allowing 53.6 percent field goal shooting by the Liberty and letting Phillips muscle her way around and through defenders all night on her way to 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting. All together, the Liberty frontcourt provided 53 of the team's 74 points.
But the Mystics were nearly perfect in other areas. They didn't commit a second-half turnover, shot 55.2 percent from the field in the second half and missed just two of 19 free throw attempts for the night.
While winning tonight might not require perfection, the Mystics will need to kick up the intensity and focus they displayed Thursday, Stanley said. For their part, the Liberty are sure to have some adjustments and a heightened intensity as well.
"I expect a dogfight. I expect the same kind of game," said New York's Crystal Robinson, who had 20 points and four 3-pointers in Game1. "[The Mystics] are hungry. It's going to come down to who executes the best. It's not an easy fight at this stage of the playoffs."

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