NEW YORK, Aug. 24 (Ticker) -- This time, the New York Liberty got the ball to Tari Phillips early enough to render the final nine minutes meaningless.

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Phillips scored 23 points and Vickie Johnson made all five 3-pointers as the Liberty avoided elimination with a 96-79 victory over the Washington Mystics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The decisive third game is Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, where New York is 3-0 in the postseason. The Liberty are 9-3 all-time when facing elimination.

Phillips scored 21 points in Thursday's series opener but did not attempt a shot over the final 9 minutes as Washington held on for a 79-74 victory.

Chamique Holdsclaw found the going rough in Game 2.
Jesse D. Garrabrant
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She again asserted her dominance inside and made 11-of-13 shots Saturday as New York never trailed after surrendering the game's first basket.

A bucket by Becky Hammon gave the Liberty its first double-digit lead at 28-18 with just over nine minutes left in the first half and started a key spurt. Johnson's 3-pointer capped the 10-3 burst for a 36-21 cushion with 6:52 to go.

Johnson drained all four of her 3-point attempts in the first half as New York took a 50-39 lead into the locker room. The Liberty shot a sizzling 71 percent (20-of-38) and held a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint over the first 20 minutes.

New York established its biggest lead at 87-59 on a basket by Camille Cooper with 5:39 remaining. The 96 points were the most in team history.

Reserve guard Helen Luz scored 16 points and Chamique Holdsclaw added 14 for Washington, which is trying to advance to the WNBA Finals for the first time. But the Mystics were overwhelmed by the Liberty and their boisterous home crowd.