Hill leads Mystics to 70-52 win over Liberty

Hill leads Mystics to 70-52 win over Liberty
September 15, 2013, 8:45 pm
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(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tayler Hill is warming up just in time for the Washington Mystics to make a playoff push.

She continued her recent stellar play Sunday, scoring a career-high-tying 16 points to help the Mystics defeat the New York Liberty and secure the third playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. 

"I think that I'm adjusting and the game has sort of slowed down for me," said Hill, the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, who also scored 16 in Friday night's win over Connecticut and has double-digit points in six of her last seven games. "I don't feel rushed, I don't feel frantic out there. It's just starting to come to me."

Kia Vaughn scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her second-straight double-double and her third of the season to help the Mystics split their four-game season series with New York.

Ivory Latta added 12 points for Washington (17-17), which closed its season with three straight victories to finish a game ahead of fourth-place Indiana entering their first playoffs since 2010.

"To get those wins, especially to get those two home wins, we definitely need that momentum to go into the playoffs," Latta said. "At the same time, when you go into the playoffs, it's 0-0."

The Mystics will face second-seeded Atlanta, which has an identical record but owns the head-to-head tiebreak, in a three-game conference semifinal series that begins Thursday. Washington lost three of five games with the Dream during the regular season, but lost four of five to top-seeded Chicago, which will now face Indiana in the other East semifinal.

"We've just got to go down there, stay poised, stay focused and be ready," Latta said of the opener in Atlanta.

Kelsey Bone scored 11 points and Toni Young added 10 for New York (11-23) in the final game for retiring teammate and seven-time WNBA All-Star Katie Smith.

"Obviously, I'm going to miss parts of it, but I'm ready to move on," Smith said. "I was able to go out on my own terms, and I can't complain."

The 39-year-old Smith had seven points and one 3-pointer in her final game. She finishes her career as the league's second all-time leading scorer with 6,446 points and its leading 3-point shooter with and 904 made 3s. She also won two WNBA championships with Detroit and was named finals MVP in 2008.

"Good gracious, come on now," Latta, a former teammate in Detroit, said of Smith's career numbers. "She's done a lot for the game, and just to be out there with her and playing against her, it's definitely a blessing."

Washington never trailed beyond the first quarter, but led by only two in the third before Latta and Hill each hit 3-pointers in an 8-0 stretch to push the Mystics lead to 41-31.

Hill hit two more 3s during the quarter, the latter under duress from the left wing to make it 52-42 before New York's Alex Montgomery responded with a leaner to close the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Vaughn hit two inside baskets and a pair of foul shots to help the Mystics close the game on a 14-4 run to split their four-game season series with New York.

Smith left the game with 36 seconds left to a standing ovation from both the home crowd and a large contingent of New York fans, who chanted "Ka-tie, Ka-tie" in the game's final moments. Smith spent her 2010 season in Washington when the Mystics last qualified for the postseason.

"From my one year here and all my years in Detroit playing against them, they're just good fans," Smith said of the reception. "They love the game and they support not only the Mystics, but they support the league. It's pretty amazing."