Guard Jasmine Thomas hit the game-winning three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining and Washington down by one point in overtime. Forward Monique Currie, who missed two free throws late in regulation when the Mystics could have regained the lead, later clinched the victory with two free throws.
But Washington wouldn’t have forced an extra period without the heroics of guard Matee Ajavon, who finished with a game-high 22 points. Ajavon hit a step-back three-pointer over Chicago’s Le’coe Willingham with 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation after the Mystics had squandered a nine-point second half lead over the course of the fourth quarter.
Afterward, relief was the prevailing emotion in Washington’s locker room, especially since the Mystics had suffered two lopsided losses since returning to action from the WNBA’s month-long Olympic break earlier this week.
“It’s definitely one of those things where you can breath easy,” Ajavon said. “We were able to get the win and we stayed aggressive. That was the most important thing.”
Washington (5-16) built its lead behind stifling defense and hot shooting in the third quarter. The Mystics forced 20 turnovers, and held the Sky to 37.3 percent shooting from the field and six points in the second quarter. On the other end, Washington hit 10 of its 14 shot attempts to begin the second half, using a well-balanced attack to overcome a sluggish start.
Thomas finished with a career-high eight assists and forward Crystal Langhorne added 18 points and eight rebounds. Langhorne was honored at halftime along with former Washington players Chamique Holdsclaw, Vicky Bullett, Muriel Page and Nikki McCray as part of the Mystics’ 15th anniversary all-time team.
But the Mystics could not pull away from the Sky (8-11) as the league’s worst offense reared its head at the worst possible moment. Washington scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter, including Ajavon’s big three-pointer, and Chicago took a three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Forward Sylvia Fowles paced the Sky with a double-double (13 points, 16 rebounds) and guard Epiphanny Prince added a team-high 18 points.
This night, though, was about Washington’s resiliency. When Currie missed two free throws with 14.2 seconds left in regulation and the Mystics down by one point, Ajavon responded with her clutch shot.
Chicago then took a quick four-point lead in overtime, and Ajavon fouled out with 26.7 seconds to go. But for a change, it was the Mystics that left the court smiling.
“I felt like we played through a lot of things,” Coach Trudi Lacey said. “It’s a process to overcome and execute down the stretch in close games, and we were able to do that. We see some growth and we see some improvement and we see some development and that’s what we want to see. We’re aiming for consistency.”
●SILVER STARS 89, MERCURY 47: Becky Hammon scored 13 of her 19 points in the first half to lead visiting San Antonio, extending its franchise-best winning streak to 11 games and handing Phoenix its worst loss as a franchise.
Hammon, a member of the Russian Olympic team that lost in the bronze-medal game to Australia, made two three-pointers in the first half as the Silver Stars built a 19-point lead by the break.
Alexis Hornbuckle had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Mercury, which has lost eight straight, dating back to July 1.
●LYNX 83, SHOCK 59: Maya Moore scored 22 points and Minnesota pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat visiting Tulsa and clinch a playoff spot at the earliest point in franchise history. The defending champion Lynx (17-4) didn’t clinch a postseason berth until their 26th game last season.
Glory Johnson led Tulsa (3-17) with 17 points.