Final - 2OT
  for this game

Mystics-Liberty Preview

Sep 17, 2015 - 6:20 PM (AP) - Washington coach Mike Thibault was shaking his head. The veteran coach couldn't remember a more wide-open playoff chase in the WNBA than this season.

''It really is something,'' he said. ''Of the eight teams remaining, you really could say that most of them have a legitimate chance to win the title and it wouldn't be shocking.''

Thibault's team will begin its postseason Friday night in New York. The Liberty earned the No. 1 overall seed while winning a franchise record 23 games. Still they struggled with the Mystics (18-16), dropping three of the four meetings in the regular season.

''It's just a different mentality when you reach the playoffs,'' New York center Tina Charles said. ''A lot more is at stake and you forget about what happened in the regular season.''

The last time there wasn't a clear-cut favorite to win the title was probably in 2008 when San Antonio had the best record, but Bill Laimbeer's Detroit Shock came away with the title.

Now, Laimbeer's team is the one with the best mark.

''The nice thing we know now is that if we win all our home games we'll win the championship,'' the Liberty coach said.

New York went 12-5 at home this season but two of those losses came to the Mystics.

The Liberty were the league's best defensive team, allowing an average of 71.1 points, and Washington finished right behind them at 71.2 points per game. The Mystics proved to be stronger defensively in the head-to-head matchups, though, holding the Liberty to an average of 63.8 points while they scored 74.8 per game.

However, this meeting will have a totally different feel - and not just because it's the opener of a best-of-three playoff series.

The season's first two meetings came in June when the Liberty were without Epiphanny Prince, who was playing for Russia in the European championships. Prince, who finished second on the team in scoring (15.0 ppg) and assists (3.4 per game), made her first appearance of the season by coming off the bench in New York's 79-76 overtime win over the Mystics on July 9.

And although the teams met just last Friday, the Liberty had nothing riding on the game having already clinched the league's best record and played their starters sparingly as the Mystics cruised to an 82-55 win.

"We got a lot of work to do before we get ready for a playoff game," Thibault said. "Our players, I hope they aren't fooled by what happened in New York the other night. New York's going to be a bit different team than they were the other night. Hopefully we'll be better, too."

The Mystics will need their All-Stars in the frontcourt - Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson - to step up in matchups with Charles.

The 2012 MVP led the Liberty with a 17.1 scoring average - fourth-best in the WNBA - and finished second in the league in rebounds at 8.5 per game.

"We have the opportunity to go far this year (with) the chemistry we have as a team," said Dolson, who enters the postseason averaging 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. "We're excited for the playoffs. We know we can do well as long as we play our game."