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With playoffs locked up Liberty has an off night

New York Liberty's Erica Wheeler reacts after missing

New York Liberty's Erica Wheeler reacts after missing a shot against the Washington Mystics during the third quarter of a WNBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Credit: Jason DeCrow

The Liberty already had taken care of all of its pressing regular-season business:

The franchise's first No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference since 2002.

The franchise's first-ever first overall seed, good for home-court advantage for as long as the team lasts in the playoffs.

The franchise's single-season record for victories.

So there wasn't anything on the line against the Washington Mystics Friday night at the Garden in the Liberty's regular-season home finale. And it showed.

Washington arrived in fourth place and already had clinched a playoff spot. But the Mystics still have a chance for the third seed, and they blew out the Liberty, 82-55. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored 15 to pace the Mystics (18-15), who clinched the season series, 3-1.

The fourth seed would bring Washington back to MSG next Friday night for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Mystics, a game behind Indiana but holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, end the regular season at home Sunday against Atlanta. The Liberty (23-10) will finish the schedule Sunday at Indiana.

Can these players summon some intensity for that one?

"Oh God, I hope so," Candice Wiggins said. " . . . We only have one more game to clean this up . . . I think this was like the shock that we needed."

By the time 13 minutes had passed, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer had used all 11 available players. Epiphanny Prince played only 15:14 and Tina Charles only 9:14. Backup center Avery Warley-Talbert was the Liberty's leading scorer with 12 points.

"Everybody knows they're going to play different minutes," Laimbeer said. "You want to come with the energy and focus to compete to win a basketball game and we didn't."

Reserve Erica Wheeler scored eight points and Wiggins came off the bench for six to keep the Liberty in it early. The Mystics led by only 31-29 with 5:13 left in the second quarter before going on a 16-5 sprint for a 47-34 halftime lead.

"I think it gives us some confidence that whoever we play, we can execute better offensively," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said.

Washington scored the first 11 points of the third period, and when Stefanie Dolson made a jumper, it was 58-34. The margin swelled to as many as 31 points.

Laimbeer's summation: "They didn't come out with the right frame of mind today."

Said Swin Cash, "They wanted it more."

New York Sports