NEW YORK -- Trailing by five points early in the fourth quarter, New York coach Pat Coyle urged her players to tighten their defense. The Liberty followed through and ran past the Chicago Sky.
Janel McCarville scored 16 points before leaving with an injury and Essence Carson had 10 to lead New York to a 69-61 win over the Sky on Sunday. Cathrine Kraayeveld grabbed 14 rebounds and had some key baskets down the stretch for the Liberty (18-12), who used a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
"One of the things I said to them is ... we need to start getting stops and then score," Coyle said. "That's how you are able to get back into games. We scored on 11 of the 15 offensive possessions and made six consecutive stops."
New York, which clinched a playoff spot on Friday night, pulled a half-game behind second-place Detroit in the Eastern Conference.
"Every time you are in a tough game and go down in the fourth quarter and the game goes back and forth, you still need to find a way to win," Coyle said.
Jia Perkins finished with 18 points and rookie Sylvia Fowles added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sky (11-20), who have lost three straight after winning their first three following the monthlong Olympic break.
Trailing 51-46 with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the fourth, the Liberty came out of the timeout and went on their game-turning run. Ashley Battle had a layup and Erin Thorn hit back-to-back 3s from the left corner to take a three-point lead.
"My shot's been struggling," Thorn said. "I knew that if I stayed with it ... just keep taking them when I'm open, and today they dropped for me at big times."
McCarville and Kraayeveld then sandwiched layups around Battle's 3 from the left corner, building the Liberty's lead to 61-51 with 4:34 to go.
Perkins had a three-point play with 4:16 left, ending Chicago's 4 1/2-minute scoring drought and pulling the Sky within seven.
However, Kraayeveld hit a 3 at the other end to restore New York's double-digit lead.
Perkins' 3 with 53.9 seconds left cut Chicago's deficit to 67-61, but Kraayeveld and Erlana Larkins each hit a free throw to seal New York's third straight win.
With the loss, Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention, giving the East's final postseason berth to Indiana. The Sky can tie the Fever at best, and Indiana holds the tiebreaker by winning the season series.
"We got off to a good start, but New York is a tough team," Fowles said. "They just outplayed us in that fourth quarter. They got every board and putback, had confidence in getting to the rim and got a lot of quick runouts that put them up by 10."
McCarville fell awkwardly while attempting a layup with about 3 1/2 minutes left, got up and started heading down the court before she dropped to the ground. She was down for a few minutes before getting helped off the court.
McCarville was being examined after the game and her status was uncertain.
The Liberty were already playing without leading scorer Shameka Christon (strained right hamstring) for the third straight game, and leading rebounder Tiffany Jackson (stress fracture) for the fifth consecutive time.
"As much as you don't want your team to get injured and be without some key players, it's giving people a lot of minutes," Thorn said. "Come playoff time, we may need those people to step up -- including myself -- and we're getting good quality minutes right now to get experienced and be ready for those opportunities."
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half.
Chicago closed the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 32-31 lead on Perkins' two free throws with 0.8 seconds left. Fowles had 12 points and seven rebounds at the break.