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Liberty falls to Dream, is on brink of elimination

Liberty's Cappie Pondexter reacts after taking heavy contact

Liberty's Cappie Pondexter reacts after taking heavy contact while driving through an Atlanta Dream double-team and going down with an injury in the second quarter during a WNBA basketball game at Prudential Center. (Sept. 6, 2013) Credit: Jason DeCrow

NEWARK - What the Liberty really needed against the Atlanta Dream Friday night was a win.

What they didn't need was a loss and an injury to their best player.

Cappie Pondexter fell awkwardly on her right leg early in the second quarter on a drive to the basket, throwing a scare into her teammates and the Prudential Center crowd.

The eighth-year guard, who was helped off the court by trainer Laura Ramus, returned to start the second half, but her presence wasn't enough as the Dream topped the Liberty, 70-57, further damaging its playoff hopes.

It was the fourth straight loss and the seventh in eight games for the Liberty.

The Liberty (11-20) entered Friday night trailing the Indiana Fever by 2½ games for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Indiana was 13-16 before its game against the Chicago Sky late Friday night and has four games remaining after that game.

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer's message to his team the last several days had been pretty straightforward: win every game.

In addition to winning its three remaining games, the Liberty needs Indiana to drop its final four games. The season series is tied at two with one head-to-head matchup left.

"The goal is to get back to the point where we have destiny in our own hands," Laimsaid. "And we can't do that unless we win games."

Pondexter's absence was felt over the second and third quarters as the Dream (17-13), sparked by three three-pointers from Tiffany Hayes, went on a 33-18 run and took a 55-36 lead with 5:20 left in the third.

Pondexter, who left the game with 9:21 left in the second quarter, finished with two points on 1-for-8 shooting and played just 8:57 in the second half.

Kara Braxton had 17 points and Plenette Pierson had 14 points for the Liberty. Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta with 16 points and Hayes and Erika de Souza had 12 points each.

"We have to play so hard for so long just to have a chance to win a basketball game," Laimbeer said. "We haven't been able to do that consistently throughout the year."

New York Sports