Coach Trudi Lacey was happy with the Mystics’ effort Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to keep Washington from losing its fifth in a row. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press)

Essence Carson scored 20 points and Cappie Pondexter added 14 to lead the New York Liberty past the last-place Washington Mystics 79-73 on Saturday.

Kara Braxton had 14 points, including eight in a decisive 11-0 run in the second quarter, to help New York (10-16) snap a three-game losing streak. Carson shot 8 for 13 from the field and also had six assists. The Liberty moved into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with Chicago, which played at Indiana later Saturday night. Atlanta is 31 / 2 games ahead in third.

“Every game is crucial at this point,” said Carson, who got a rare start after usually being the Liberty’s first player off the bench. “We have to think that we need every game. We had to win a game like this, especially with the situation we’re in.”

Pondexter, bothered by sore Achilles on both feet, believes New York has to win seven of its final nine games to secure a postseason berth.

“If we want to make the playoffs, that’s what we need to do,” she said. “We also have to count on others to lose. Destiny is not in our own hands. We have a chance to make up the difference and get in.”

Pondexter knew that she wasn’t feeling well and tried to play through the pain, but shot just 6 for 18.

“It was great that Essence stepped up,” Pondexter said. “I’m happy we got the win. It’s more important than me getting 20 points. I just wanted to give as much effort as I could.”

Liberty head coach John Whisenant was pleased with the team effort.

“We told them that it didn’t matter who we were playing, that we had to play hard,” Whisenant said. “Essence came back and played well. She got more minutes. We shook the starting lineup around a little, not for any reason. It seemed to work.”

Monique Currie scored 20 points, Crystal Langhorne had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Jasmine Thomas added 18 for Washington (5-21), which lost its fifth straight.

“In the second quarter we got stagnant with the offense and scored only 12 points,” Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said. “Down the stretch we had a couple crucial turnovers, but for the most part we competed very hard. They’re physical and it took us a little bit out of our game.”

The Mystics took a 20-15 lead with about 21 / 2 minutes left in the first quarter on two consecutive drives by Langhorne and a power move from Thomas. The Liberty responded with the final seven points of the period, taking a two-point lead on Pondexter’s three-point play.