GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Essence Carson knows what it means to win big and to lose bigger.
She's been on the cusp of a WNBA championship before, and she and the Liberty have been eliminated from the playoffs four times since she was drafted in 2008. At 29, she's the last member of the team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.
And yet, as her squad prepares to face the fourth-seeded Washington Mystics Tuesday in the deciding Game 3 of the conference semifinals, the past means very little to Carson. She intends to milk these moments for as much as they're worth, and if that means facing a team that's beaten them four times this season, then so be it. Carson isn't scared.
"The time is now," she said after practice on Monday. "You'll never know how many chances you'll get at this, so you just want to seize the moment. You know how they always say seize the day? We're trying to seize this moment and make this moment last as long as it can."
The hope is that this moment carries them all the way to the Finals. Seeded first, the Liberty is the only existing original eight team without a championship (the defunct Utah Starzz never won one, and neither has that franchise's current incarnation, the San Antonio Silver Stars), and only four players on the roster have ever won the big prize.
Swin Cash, who's won three championships (two with current coach Bill Laimbeer when both were with the Detroit Shock), said she was particularly confident in this team's makeup.
"We're a humble team but we're a hungry team," she said. "We saw there were some areas we could improve on [in Game 1]. I give a lot of credit to our team. We didn't get a lot of court time, but we were able to watch the film, make the mental adjustments and do that for Game 2."
The Liberty lost Game 1 in double overtime and came back with a dominant win Sunday in Game 2.
As she has all season, Tina Charles led the charge, scoring 17 of her 22 points in the third quarter of the 86-68 victory.
"One thing on this team that compares to the other championship teams I've been on, it's our chemistry -- our ability to adjust," Cash said. "We have great communication with each other and also defense. Every team that I've been on that has won a WNBA championship, we played solid defense."
And though the teams of Liberty past were strong, Carson said, this one has an extra asset in the often grueling, best-of-three format.
"We seem to have filled all the holes," she said. "We've had solid teams here, but the problem would be our depth . . . Right now, we could clear the whole bench and you wouldn't even know. That's one thing that's helped us during the year, especially in those back-to-back games or games that are really, really close together -- we're able to empty the bench and expect the same thing from the second squad as we would from the first squad."
Cash is confident that as long as her team keeps its routine, it will be just fine. There is, however, one little extra push she's hoping for.
"I hope it's a zoo in there," she said. "I hope people are jumping off the rafters. I hope it's New York at its finest. I hope our fans come out and they're loud and proud."