ATLANTA (AP) - John Whisenant was worried his New York team was catching Atlanta, winners of five of its last six, at the wrong time.
Instead, the Liberty's 3-point shooting overwhelmed the Dream.
Pienette Pierson scored 20 points, Leilani Mitchell sank four 3-pointers - all in the final period - and New York held off Atlanta 85-75 on Tuesday night.
Cappie Pondexter had 16 points and Nicole Powell added 13 for New York, which solidified its hold on third in the Eastern Conference by making 11 of 19 3-pointers.
``We felt like Atlanta was getting back in sync to where they were last year in the playoffs,' said Whisenant, referring to the Dream's run to the WNBA finals. ``They had won five in a row and then lost a tough game at Connecticut they probably should have won.
``We were expecting it to be a playoff kind of game, and we played well.'
Whisenant said he told his team the game could be important to the conference playoff standings.
``With a couple more wins we could be in first place but with a couple more losses we could be in next to last place,' Whisenant said.
New York is one game behind second-place Connecticut and 2 1/2 games behind first-place Indiana in the conference.
``I just know we need to continue to win to make the playoffs,' Pondexter said. ``I cannot even begin to talk about the playoffs until we win these upcoming games. But if we do continue to win, we will continue to move up that East ladder.'
Mitchell opened the final period with two 3-pointers - her first two field goals of the game. She made another 3, barely beating the shot clock, to push the lead to 79-72, before her fourth 3 gave her 12 points in the quarter.
``I was just trying to be aggressive,' Mitchell said. ``We always set up plays for Cappie, because she is so good and our playmaker and scorer, but I wanted to get in there and help us get the win.'
Asked about Mitchell, Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said ``If she's open, she's going to hit.'
Meadors said Mitchell and other New York 3-point shooters were open too often.
``A lot of the 3s that they hit were on broken plays,' Meadors said.
Meadors said her team ``just didn't have very good rhythm for some reason, offensively or defensively.'
New York claimed a 36-29 advantage in rebounds, a key in limiting Atlanta's up-tempo game. Pierson had a game-high eight rebounds.
``If we rebound, it fits right into our game so we can push it and run,' Meadors said. ``We didn't have enough rebounds tonight.'
Atlanta fell one-half game behind Chicago in the race for the conference's fourth and final playoff spot.
Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 24 points. Lindsey Harding added 14 with nine assists.
Atlanta, the defending conference champion, has lost two straight after a five-game winning streak.
McCoughtry, Atlanta's only All-Star, did not start for the second straight game. She came off the bench to lead Atlanta with 36 points in the Dream's 99-92 loss at Connecticut on Sunday, giving her more than 30 points in three of her last four games.
McCoughtry entered the game with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter and had a three-point play about a minute later. She had seven straight points for Atlanta in the second period, but the Liberty led 46-40 at the break as Essence Carson and Nicole Powell each had two 3-pointers in the half.
A 3-pointer by Pondexter extended New York's lead to 10 points at 56-46 midway through the third. Atlanta scored six of the next eight points and trailed 65-61 entering the final period.
New York won the season series, 3-2. Attendance was 4,573
The Associated Press News Service
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