NEW YORK -- Washington coach Mike Thibault credited his team for doing all the little things necessary to outlast New York in a thrilling playoff opener.
Ivory Latta scored 15 points and Emma Meesseman added 13 to help the Mystics beat the top-seeded Liberty 86-83 in double-overtime Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Whichever team won was going to be excited, whichever team lost would be heartbroken," Thibault said. "It was a great basketball game. That's how you win playoff games, make your free throws and rebound."
Washington was 19-for-24 from the free throw line and was only outrebounded 43-40 by New York.
"Outstanding game played by both teams, the little things lurking in the background all season caught up to us," New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. "Second-chance points, we gave up too many. Missed free throws -- that was one of our biggest downfalls. We gave away too many opportunities in regulation and overtime. We missed some free throws and did not make big shots."
New York was just 16-for-26 from the line, including a few key misses down the stretch.
Tayler Hill added 13 points for the Mystics, who will host Game 2 on Sunday.
"Nothing's easy in this league," Laimbeer said. "It's the way it is. We're the best road team in this league and we'll step up like we have in the past."
It was a back-and-forth contest with neither team taking more than a four-point lead in the second half or in overtime.
New York led 80-78 in the second OT before Meesseman tied the game with 2:28 left. Kara Lawson, who was playing for the first time since sitting out the final eight games of the regular season with a back injury, gave Washington the lead with a layup with 1:44 left.
Hill added a free throw 42 seconds later to make it a 3-point game. New York didn't have a basket in the second overtime after Tanisha Wright's 3-pointer opened the scoring until Epiphanny Prince hit a 3 with 1.1 seconds left that made it 85-83.
Latta made 1 of 2 free throws with 0.1 seconds left to cap the scoring. Washington's fiesty guard said the team was never intimidated playing the top seed. The Mystics won three of the four regular season meetings.
"Absolutely not," Latta said. "Everyone had a positive mindset, we just made sure we took care of what we needed to do. Play hard and together as a team."
Washington did just that, stunning a sellout crowd of 10,120 to take Game 1.
Stefanie Dolson also had 13 points for the Mystics before leaving with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter after hurting her ankle.
"Stef just turned her ankle, she'll be fine for Sunday," Thibault said. "She'll get treatment tomorrow and we'll see how it goes."
Prince led New York with 26 points and Tina Charles added 22 for the Liberty, who had opportunities to win before the second OT.
New York scored six of the first nine points in the first overtime going up 75-72 on Prince's jumper with 1:22 left. After another Mystics miss, Swin Cash hit 1 of 2 free throws with 46 seconds remaining to put the Liberty up four.
Hill made two free throws to bring Washington within two.
After Charles missed a hook, Latta brought the ball up the court and New York forced a jump ball with 9 seconds left. Washington earned possession on a violation by New York and Meesseman tied it on a layup with 1.6 seconds remaining. Prince's last-second shot from the corner was well short, sending the game to another overtime.
This was the first playoff game for New York at Madison Square Garden since 2010. The Liberty played in New Jersey when they made the playoffs in 2011 and 2012 as MSG was undergoing renovations.
This was only the fifth game in WNBA playoff history that went two overtimes or more according to STATS.