Howard leads Liberty to 77-65 win over Mystics

The Liberty were struggling to score on the outside, so the team focused on getting points inside.

It worked thanks to a solid effort from Natasha Howard, who scored a season-high 27 points to help New York beat the Washington Mystics 77-65 on Thursday night.

New York beat Washington 44-24 in the paint with Han Xu scoring 12 points to join Howard’s big game.

“Finishing inside was important to us,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “Tasha was amazing for us. Han just keeps getting better. She picks things up really well and she has such a soft touch.

New York has missed 25 of its 31 3-point attempts.

“We had a lot of open looks, we just missed them,” Brondello said. “We’re going to have nights like that. I like that we take a lot of 3s. The defense tonight won the game.”

Howard added nine rebounds and was 13 for 17 from the field for the Liberty (6-9). Sabrina Ionescu had 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

The Mystics (10-7) were missing star Elena Delle Donne, who took games off to rest, which caused her to miss all of last season. Washington played at Minnesota on Tuesday and will play again Sunday at home.

“We have three games this week and we’re trying to get her to play only two right now,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said.

Washington led 24-20 after one quarter despite Howard scoring 12 points for New York in the first period. The Liberty outscored the Mystics 20-11 in the second quarter to take a 40-35 lead into the half.

New York extended the third-quarter lead to 10 behind Howard, who had nine points in the period. The Mystics came within eight in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get closer.

Natasha Cloud scored 17 points to lead the Mystics.

TRAINING ROOM

Although listed as likely for the game, DiDi Richards missed her 14th game of the season with a right hamstring injury. She went through some warm-ups but wasn’t ready to go.

“It was a long process, they decided to see how she would warm up and they decided to give her a few more days,” Brondello said.

New York was also still missing Rebecca Allen (non-COVID illness); Betnijah Laney (right knee) and Jocelyn Willoughby (left knee).

NEXT:

Mystics: Host Connecticut Sunday.

Liberty: host Seattle on Sunday.

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