NEWARK -- Essence Carson took a defender off the dribble and drew a crowd to her left. As Plenette Pierson rolled right to the basket, Carson slipped her a pinpoint bounce pass through traffic, leading to a layup and foul, and three points on the scoreboard.
The immediate significance: The Liberty lead was pushed to 13 with 4:02 remaining en route to a 79-73 win over the Washington Mystics Saturday at the Prudential Center.
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Long-term: Carson, a 6-foot wing who recently has been converted to point guard, is beginning to look like a point.
"It's not the first time I've played point, just the first at this level," said Carson, in her fourth season out of Rutgers. "Since I was only playing [shooting guard and [small forward], we didn't really have a backup point guard. I buckled down and tried to learn the position during the break. It makes me a more versatile player."
And makes the Liberty a more balanced team. Carson had 20 points and six assists with just one turnover as the Liberty (10-16) snapped a three-game losing streak and kept the fourth and final Eastern Conference playoff seed within reach.
"She's doing a great job," Cappie Pondexter said of Carson. "Leilani [Mitchell, at 5-5] is a smaller guard and some matchups can be difficult for her. The fact that we have myself and Essence being able to play point is a big help."
Pondexter, who is dealing with a sore foot, had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, and 6-6 center Kara Braxton added 14 points and two blocks. The Liberty took advantage of a beleaguered Mystics team with the league's worst record (5-21). Monique Currie had 20 points and four assists for Washington.
The Liberty used an 11-0 run to seize control in the second quarter and went up 40-26 on Braxton’s turn-around hook shot with 3:34 left. They led by as many as 55-37 in the third. Washington cut into the lead late in the fourth quarter.
"If you look at [Chicago's] schedule, they had it easier than us [earlier in the season] and have it harder to go . . . but we still have to play well," Liberty coach John Whisenant said.
"If we say we don't watch Chicago, we'd be lying," Carson added. "But more importantly, we have to worry about our games and come out with wins. It's do or die."