Washington Mystics fall short vs. Indiana Fever in 2012 home finale


Isabel Castro Marques, left, gets tied up for a jump ball by Indiana's Karima Christmas during the first half. The Washington rookie had 11 points while playing a season-high 22 minutes. (Doug Kapustin/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
September 21, 2012

The Washington Mystics’ home finale Friday night played out the way most of their games have this season. There were bright moments, especially in the first half, when the basement-dwelling Mystics led the playoff-bound Indiana Fever, but in the end Washington couldn’t keep pace.

The 66-53 loss in front of a crowd of 7,702 at Verizon Center extended the Mystics’ losing streak to 12 games and was Washington’s 18th defeat in its last 20 games. The Fever entered the game boasting the second-best record in the Eastern Conference but had little to play for, having locked up the East’s second seed earlier in the week.

Playing with injury-depleted rosters that left each team with just eight active players, neither squad shot especially well Friday night. With leading scorer Crystal Langhorne still sidelined with a strained left foot, the Mystics shot just 33.8 percent from the field and posted their lowest point total of the season. Indiana didn’t fare much better, shooting just 35.4 percent, but found just enough second-half offense to pull away.

In Langhorne’s absence, the Mystics (5-28) were led by forward Monique Currie, who had 16 points, and rookie guard Jasmine Thomas, who finished with 11. Midseason signing Iziane Castro Marques played a season-high 22 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds.

“We’re really wanting to get Izzie Castro Marques some minutes and get her comfortable,” Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. “This is probably the most comfortable she’s played. So that was really a bright spot for us, because I think she has a bright future with us.”

With the win, Indiana (21-12) clinched its seventh season with at least 21 victories in the last eight years. It will open the playoffs Friday night at home against the conference’s third seed, Atlanta. Indiana was led by a season-best 19 points from guard Erin Phillips, who started in place of an injured Briann January. The Fever outrebounded the Mystics, 43-30, including a career-high 11 rebounds by guard Erlana Larkins.

The loss closed the book on a dismal home schedule in which the Mystics went 4-13 at Verizon Center. Washington will wrap up its season Saturday at Chicago, where a loss would give the Mystics their worst record since a 3-27 finish in 1998, the team’s inaugural season.

“For me, this has been a very frustrating year,” Currie said after a long, measured pause. “I mean, there’s some things I can take away, but it’s been tough and that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes. You got to keep moving, you got to keep fighting and that’s what we all have done, but I think we’re all ready for it to be over and we can start over again next year.”

Washington could get a boost as early as next Wednesday when the Mystics will have the most ping-pong balls in the WNBA draft lottery. With the league’s worst record, Washington will have a 42 percent chance to win the draft’s first choice and with it, the right to draft 6-foot-8 Baylor center Brittney Griner, the three-time all-American who was named player of the year and most outstanding player of the Final Four by the Associated Press.

Lacey, who is also the Mystics’ general manager, said the team wouldn’t begin its evaluation process for next season in earnest until after Saturday’s season finale, but after a long and mostly disappointing season, Currie said the draft lottery was a source of optimism in an otherwise exhausted locker room.

“Definitely looking forward to the draft next week,” Currie said. “We will have the most balls in the lottery, so hopefully that’ll land us the number one pick. The past two years it hasn’t for the person with the most balls, but hopefully they’ll bounce our way. Since they haven’t bounced our way this season, maybe in the lottery they will.”

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