An ugly game turned out beautifully for the Washington Mystics.
Alana Beard rescued the jet-lagged Mystics with a game-high 28 points, including all 18 of her team’s points in the fourth quarter, to lead Washington over the Connecticut Sun 65-64 at Verizon Center.
The Mystics (15-17) hold a 1½-game lead over the New York Liberty (13-18), who lost last night, for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the Mystics beat the Liberty tomorrow, they will clinch a playoff berth.
This game is about runs, said Beard, who hit five field goals, including a 3-pointer, and seven free throws in the final quarter. This team did a great job of taking all of Connecticut’s punches. We made stops when we needed to and scored when we needed to.
But early in the game, the Mystics looked like a team that played back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday, then flew home from California on Monday. They had 16 turnovers and shot 39 percent for the game, missing their first seven 3-pointers.
Washington trailed Connecticut by 13 in the second quarter thanks to 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek (17 points, 11 rebounds), who led the Sun with outside jump shots.
Reserve Coco Miller (15 points) kept the lethargic Mystics close early, while the rest of the team struggled. She came off the bench to score 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first half. The rest of the team was 7-for-25 (28 percent) in the half.
The Mystics entered the fourth quarter trailing by one point after Nakia Sanford hit a 13-foot jumper to end the third.
Beard then led off the fourth with a 7-foot jump shot, giving the Mystics their first lead of the game at 49-48 — the first of seven lead changes in the quarter.
The All-Star guard gave her team the lead for good at 63-62 with 1:34 left on a pair of free throws and pushed it to a three-point advantage 25 seconds later on a runner across the lane. Dydek’s short jumper cut the margin to one with 55 seconds left, but neither team scored after that.
But the Mystics could not celebrate until Katie Douglas missed a baseline jumper and DeLisha Milton-Jones grabbed the rebound and clutched it as the buzzer sounded.
We just have to take care of our business, interim coach Tree Rollins said. We are confident we can do it. We just have to cut down on turnovers and make shots.
The fourth quarter, of course, was all Beard’s. She was 5-for-8 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line in the quarter.
[Beard] does what she does, Rollins said. She leads us.
Sky 77, Liberty 65
CHICAGO — Jia Perkins scored 24 points to lead Chicago over New York, snapping a five-game losing streak.
Stacey Dales had 17 points, Candice Dupree 16 and Dominique Canty added 12 for Chicago (13-19), which was eliminated from the playoffs when Washington beat Connecticut.
The Sky lost starting center Chasity Melvin to an eye injury in the first quarter. Melvin left the court holding a towel over her left eye and went to a local hospital with assistant trainer Juliet Barnes. Preliminary tests showed no loss of vision, the a team spokeswoman said.
Jessica Davenport scored 14 points, and Janel McCarville and Shameka Christon each added 11 for the Liberty (13-18), who have lost 10 of 13 and fell 1½ games behind the Mystics for the East’s fourth and final playoff berth. Loree Moore had six assists and seven rebounds as New York fell to 0-12 when they score under 70 points.
Comets 81, Shock 72
HOUSTON — Tina Thompson had 25 points and nine rebounds as Houston beat Detroit.
Michelle Snow added 13 points and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba 10 for Houston (12-20).
Deanna Nolan scored 20 points and Katie Smith had 16 for the Shock (24-8), who already have clinched homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
Detroit was missing two All-Stars as Cheryl Ford is out for the regular season with a knee injury and Kara Braxton served the first of a two-game suspension for a drunken-driving offense.