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Liberty lock up playoff berth with win vs. Dream

May 9, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; A general view of the game ball during the preseason WNBA game between the New York Liberty and the China National Team at Barclays Center.  Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Natasha Howard scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half as the host New York Liberty clinched a playoff berth with an 87-83 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn.

Marine Johannes drained a career-high six 3-pointers to finish with 18 points off the bench for the Liberty (16-20), who completed a home-and-home sweep of Atlanta.

Stefanie Dolson recorded 15 points and 12 rebounds to propel New York to its sixth win in eight outings.

Rookie Rhyne Howard collected 24 points and seven assists for the Dream (14-22), who were eliminated from postseason contention after losing four in a row and eight of their last 10 games. Monique Billings had 15 points and Maya Caldwell added 14 in a losing effort.

Natasha Howard made 3 of 6 free-throw attempts in a 55-second sequence to stake New York to an 80-79 lead with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Atlanta failed to answer on its next possession and Natasha Howard drained a 3-pointer to push the Liberty’s lead to four points.

Aari McDonald converted a driving layup to halve the deficit, however Sabrina Ionescu answered by making a pair of free throws. Rhyne Howard and Erica Wheeler misfired their respective 3-point attempts, and Natasha Howard sealed the win at the free-throw line.

Dolson made her third 3-pointer and Johannes connected for the fifth and sixth times from beyond the arc to give New York a 67-62 lead late in the third quarter.

Atlanta bolted out to a 12-4 lead before Johannes made her presence felt off the bench, draining all four of her 3-point attempts in the first quarter. New York sank 6 of 8 shots from beyond the arc to claim a 26-22 lead at the end of the quarter.

Rebecca Allen and Dolson each made a 3-pointer to push the Liberty’s advantage to 34-24 early in the second quarter, however the Dream benefited from Rhyne Howard’s four-point play to forge a tie at 41.

–Field Level Media