With the series tied going into a deciding Game 3 in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, the New York Liberty will look to avoid a monumental upset at the hands of the Washington Mystics.
The Liberty stumbled into the 2015 playoffs, going 6-4 in its final 10 games and losing two consecutive contests to end the season. Despite the late-season struggles, the Liberty stepped into the playoffs with the league's best record and to a matchup with the Mystics.
Heavily favored in the first-round matchup, the Liberty were utterly shocked when the Mystics outlasted them 86-83 in the series opener that went into double overtime. New York hindered its own production in Game 1 by missing 10 free throws -- some of them at critical moments down the stretch -- and being unable to come up with stops when they most needed them.
Mystics guard Ivory Latta scored a team-high 15 points in the Game 1 win, while Epiphanny Prince added a game-high 26 points in a losing effort for the Liberty.
New York looked like a team fighting for its season in Game 2, coming out of the gate firing and opening a 23-15 lead after the first quarter. With a seven-point lead coming out of halftime, the Liberty again played like a desperate team, and it paid off as they outscored Washington by 11 points in the third quarter. New York's Tina Charles led the way with 22 points, 17 of which came in the third quarter as she helped her team pull away to a dominant 86-68 victory.
To advance, the Liberty will need to keep feeding one of their biggest mismatches in Charles, who is averaging a series-high 22 points per game thus far. New York has outscored Washington by 31 points with Charles on the court, and will need that production to continue in order to avoid the upset.
Washington, on the other hand, has nothing to lose as it entered the series as a huge underdog, and has already proven that it can compete with the Liberty. In order to advance, the Mystics need to adjust their gameplan to what worked in Game 1, where they physically imposed their will and made an impact on the boards against the league's best rebounding team.
If Latta, who is averaging 15 points per game in the series, can get help around her like she did in Game 1 when three teammates also scored in double figures then Washington has a chance of upsetting the league's top overall seed.
The winner of Game 3 will earn a date with the Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference Finals.