Washington Mystics can’t close in 77-70 loss to Connecticut Sun
By Eric Detweiler,
Washington Mystics guard Matee Avajon could only shake her head walking back to the bench for a timeout, directing the gesture to no one in particular.
Avajon had a clean look at a three-pointer that would have tied Tuesday’s game against the Connecticut Sun in the final minute. The shot felt good out of her hands but ended up short. The Mystics never had another chance to tie in a 77-70 loss to the Eastern Conference’s top team — the latest hand-wringing episode in a season full of frustration.
An encouraging effort before 5,980 fans at Verizon Center failed to prevent the Mystics’ season-high sixth consecutive loss. Crystal Langhorne led Washington with 23 points and nine rebounds in the team’s eighth loss in nine games since the WNBA’s Olympic break.
“It’s very tough [to lose like that], especially against teams I feel like we could beat,” said Avajon, who had seven points. “It just comes down to us executing and taking care of the ball in those moments we really need to.”
Three days after dropping a tight contest at New York to close a winless three-game road trip, Washington (5-22) hung tough on its home floor, staying within five points for most of the final quarter.
After trailing for nearly 24 minutes, the Mystics battled back to take the lead at 67-66 on Avajon’s three-pointer with 4 minutes 6 seconds left. But Renee Montgomery responded by drilling a deep shot from the right wing to put Connecticut (20-7) back ahead.
Washington managed just three points the rest of the way and failed to score on two possessions in the last minute when trailing by three points. The Sun was able to clinch the victory at the foul line.
The Mystics “made some not great decisions down the stretch and weren’t able to close the game out,” Coach Trudi Lacey said. “But we remind ourselves we’re playing with two young point guards and trying to teach in those situations. It was a really good learning [experience] for us.”
The Mystics got the fast start they wanted. They made nine of their first 12 shots and led by seven points in the early going before giving it all back in a 13-0 run by Connecticut.
Langhorne, Washington’s leading scorer this season, provided the early spark, hitting for 11 of the team’s first 13 points. She made her first seven shots and finished 10 of 14 from the field. Guards Noelle Quinn and Shannon Bobbitt added 10 points apiece.
Ultimately, familiar issues derailed the Mystics. Though they avoided careless turnovers this time, they were outrebounded 41-29 and ceded 21 second-chance points.
The Mystics lost all five games this season to the Sun, which clinched a playoff berth last week and leads Indiana by two games in the race for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
On Tuesday, veteran front-court players Tina Charles and Mistie Mims combined for 35 points and 20 rebounds, while guard Kara Lawson, in her ninth season, commanded a disciplined offense with 16 points and four assists.
“Every night we’re coming out, we’re expecting to win,” Langhorne said. “That’s the thing, we have to keep believing.”