With a chance to clinch their sixth consecutive WNBA playoff berth Tuesday night, the Phoenix Mercury instead suffered their fifth consecutive home loss, 103-98 to Washington.

The Mercury, who have not won at home since July 5, dropped to 16-14 and still need one win or Las Vegas loss to advance to the eight-team WNBA playoffs. They have four regular-season games remaining, all at Talking Stick Resort Arena where they are just 5-8.

Washington (18-11) had a two-win day to clinch its playoff spot. Earlier Tuesday, the WNBA ruled that the Mystics won by forfeit over Las Vegas on Aug. 3 because the Aces chose not to play after an all-day travel odyssey. 

The Mystics’ Mike Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, had little to say about the forfeit decision. 

“I really don’t want to answer it anymore,” Thibault said before the Mercury game. “We already should have won the game on a forfeit. I don’t have much more to say about. We’re all professionals. We’ve all been through travel stuff like that. My team would have played.”

Thibault is the first WNBA coach to reach 300 wins. He coached Connecticut from 2003-12 before joining the Mystics in 2013. He is a three-time WNBA Coach of the Year.

When Las Vegas lost at Atlanta on Tuesday, it put the Mercury in position to wrap up a playoff berth. But they fell behind by 15 in the first half before making a comeback in the late second and third quarters to lead by as many as six points.

Washington, down one point going into the fourth quarter, controlled the first half of the period, building a 10-point lead (93-83) that the Mercury ultimately had too little time to overcome.

Still, Phoenix made it a thrilling finish. Diana Taurasi was fouled on a 3-point try and made all three free throws, cutting the deficit to two with 17.5 seconds left. 

After a foul at 16.2, Mystics’ sharp shooter Kristi Toliver made one of two free throws for 101-98. Out of a timeout, trying to set up a game-tying 3-point try, Taurasi lost the ball out of bounds with just nine seconds left.

The Mystics won the season series 2-1 to hold a playoff-seeding tiebreaker edge over Phoenix. 

The Mercury are 2-9 in their past 11 games. 

Mercury center Brittney Griner came close to her career scoring high (38) with 35 points on 15-of-25 shooting. Taurasi added 29 and DeWanna Bonner 20. 

Forward Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics with 30 points and three other Mystics scored in double figures including Toliver with 25.

The Mercury built on a strong finish in the second quarter to outscored Washington 26-10 over the majority of the third quarter, transforming a 10-point deficit (60-50) into a six-point lead. 

The Mystics got back within 76-76 at the end of the quarter.

Washington shot 70.6 percent in the first quarter and made five three-pointers, leading by as many as 11 points.

The Mystics went up by 15 early in the second quarter and still led by that margin, 45-30, when Mercury coach Sandy Brondello took a timeout at 4:40.

For the remainder of the half, Phoenix outscored Washington 20-12, cutting its halftime deficit to 57-50. Bonner, Taurasi and Griner scored all of the Mercury points in that run, pushing Griner to 20 points in the first half.

Chelsea Clinton in the house

Chelsea Clinton was at the game for an appearance that included signing her book, “She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World.”

Mercury playoff streak

2013: Lost in conference final.

2014: WNBA champion.

2015: Lost in conference final.

2016: Lost in WNBA semifinals.

2017: Lost in WNBA semifinals.

2018: Magic number 1 to clinch playoff berth.

Up next

The Mercury go for a season sweep over Indiana (5-23) at 7 p.m. Friday on Rock the Pink Night in support of breast cancer awareness. The Fever were home against league-leading Seattle on Tuesday.