NEWARK -- Losing to the last-place team in the Eastern Conference wasn't how Liberty coach John Whisenant planned to enter the WNBA's break for the Olympics.
The Liberty played without key frontcourt contributor Plenette Pierson for the eighth consecutive game and center Kia Vaughn was in for limited minutes after missing three straight contests with a concussion. That took its toll as the Washington Mystics topped the Liberty, 70-53, Friday on Camp Day at the Prudential Center.
It was the second straight loss for the Liberty (6-12), while the Mystics picked up their first road victory of the season and improved to 4-14.
Whisenant acknowledged his squad's injuries and how it affected the performance, but he didn't use it as an excuse for the outcome.
"I don't know why we played that way," Whisenant said. "We lost our last game at Indiana, but we played very well in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win."
The Liberty fell out of this one early as the Mystics used a 28-12 run over first and second quarters to turn a seven-point deficit into a 36-27 halftime lead.
The Liberty cut a 59-41 deficit to 61-53 with 3:48 left on a three-pointer by Leilani Mitchell, but the Mystics ended the contest with a 9-0 run.
"We were lackluster from the beginning," Whisenant said. "I don't know whether our offense inadequacies, not making shots, caused our defense to go out the window or vice versa."
The Liberty missed its first 14 three-point attempts and finished 1-for-15.
"We never recovered," Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter said of the slow first half.
Pondexter, the only Liberty player to score in double figures, led the team with 22 points while shooting 9-for-23. Pondexter was 0-for-5 on three-point attempts.
Essence Carson added eight points, but shot just 4-for-15. Mitchell had five points.
Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 24 points and Monique Currie chipped in 16.
"We knock shots down," Pondexter said. "But today, it wasn't that kind of day."
Despite the loss, the fifth-place Liberty, with 16 games remaining, trailed Atlanta (9-9) and Chicago (8-8) by three games in the East standings heading into action Friday night. The top four teams advance in each conference.
"Our main focus is to make the playoffs and that's it," Pondexter said. "So whatever we have to do is whatever we have to do."
Pondexter believes the break for the Olympics will give the Liberty enough time to get back on track. Pierson (left knee) is expected to return and Vaughn should be back to 100 percent.
The Liberty resumes action on August 16 when they host the Connecticut Sun.
"There are going to be changes, for sure," Pondexter said. "Once that happens we'll be fine."