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WNBA capsules: Kristi Toliver’s playoff-record 9 3s lifts Mystics to 82-68 win over Liberty

Connecticut Sun forward Shekinna Stricklen, left, guards Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi in WNBA basketball playoffs quarter final action Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot / Associated Press)
Connecticut Sun forward Shekinna Stricklen, left, guards Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi in WNBA basketball playoffs quarter final action Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot / Associated Press)

NEW YORK – Kristi Toliver scored 32 points, hitting a WNBA playoff-record nine 3-pointers, to lead the Washington Mystics to an 82-68 victory over the New York Liberty on Sunday.

The Mystics will face the Lynx with Game 1 of the best-of-five series in Minnesota on Tuesday night. This is as far as the Mystics have gone in the playoffs since 2002 – the last time they made it out of the opening round of the postseason.

Washington found itself down 13 points in the first half before rallying to 41-35 at the break. Then Toliver took over. She scored 16 points in the third quarter, hitting all four of her 3-pointers in the period. She could only shrug and smile as the fourth one went in to give the Mystics a 57-46 advantage with 2:48 left in the third. She set the Mystics franchise record for points in a game by the end of the third quarter.

That 3-pointer, her eighth, also broke the previous WNBA record for 3-pointers made in a playoff game.

New York could never recover.

The Liberty were led by Tina Charles, who had 18 points. It’s the second consecutive season that New York was a three-seed and lost its first postseason game.

The Mystics came into the season with high expectations after trading for Elena Delle Donne and signing Toliver as a free agent. Coach Mike Thibault knew it might take some time for his team to gain chemistry with so many faces. It didn’t help that the team faced a series of injuries throughout the season, including time missed by Delle Donne to an ankle injury and then a torn ligament in her left thumb.

Phoenix 88, Connecticut 83: Brittney Griner had 26 points and nine rebounds, Diana Taurasi added 23 points, and the Mercury beat the Sun in Uncassville, Connecticut, to reach the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.

Taurasi moved to 11-0 in elimination playoff games.

Phoenix will play second-seeded Los Angeles on Tuesday night in Game 1 of a best-of-five series.

Phoenix made 3-pointers on three straight possession late in the fourth quarter to take an 84-79 lead. Leilani Mitchell started it with an open shot from the wing for a 78-76 lead. Taurasi came off a screen for another 3, and Monique Currie capped it with 2:31 left.

Connecticut, down 84-81, grabbed an offensive rebound and Shekinna Stricklen was fouled with 11.4 seconds left but she missed two free throws. Phoenix’s Camille Little grabbed the rebound and she made two free throws for a two-possession lead.

Currie and Mitchell each added 12 points for Phoenix.

Alyssa Thomas had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jonquel Jones added 19 points and 15 rebounds for Connecticut. Jones had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the first half to set a playoff franchise record for rebounds in a half.

Phoenix trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, but Taurasi’s layup in traffic pulled the Mercury to 45-38. Griner scored 11 of her 13 first-half points in the second quarter.

Griner made a baseline shot with 32 seconds left in the third for Phoenix’s first lead, 68-66, since 3-0.