MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Leilani Mitchell scored 24 points, hitting six 3-pointers, and the New York Liberty clinched a playoff spot with a 78-62 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.
Cappie Pondexter added 13 points and seven assists for New York (18-13), which sits in third place in the crowded Eastern Conference standings. Plenette Pierson scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in helping the Liberty break the Lynx’s six-game win streak.
Minnesota clinched the WNBA’s best record despite the loss. Connecticut beat East-leading Indiana 83-55 earlier, meaning the Lynx (24-7) will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Seimone Augustus scored 17 for Minnesota and Maya Moore added 16, but reigning Western Conference player of the month Lindsay Whalen finished with seven points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Mitchell hit four 3-pointers in the first half and scored 14 points, helping New York take a 38-33 lead at the break.
As they’ve done all season, the Lynx started their comeback in the third period with Moore giving Minnesota the lead, but New York didn’t fade.
Pierson hit a pair of jumpers and Pondexter added a 3-pointer as the Liberty ended the third on a 15-4 run and eventually led by as many as 18 points in the fourth.
The third quarter has been Minnesota’s best period this season, with the Lynx averaging 25.1 points and outscoring opponents by 4.9 points. Friday night marked only the fourth time this season the Lynx trailed entering the fourth quarter.
Pondexter shot just 4 of 17 from the field, but made sure there would be no second-half comeback for Minnesota.
She scored eight of her 13 points in the second half for New York, which is one game behind second-place Connecticut (19-12) and one game ahead of Atlanta (17-14) in the East.
The Lynx shot 33.8 percent despite entering the game shooting 46.0 percent, the second-highest mark in the WNBA.
The teams are playing a home-and-home series this weekend and will shift to Newark, N.J., for a game Sunday.
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