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Beard Shows Star Quality

The Mystics began the game slowly. Thompson, at 6-2, 178 pounds, is too big for guards to defend in the post and too quick for most front-line players to stay with, making her one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. She created matchup problems for the Mystics and finished the half with 11 points and three rebounds.

But after Swoopes suffered a bruised eye while fighting for control for a loose ball with Melvin, the Mystics could afford to guard Thompson with multiple players.

Rookie Alana Beard, left, outplayed Houston's Tina Thompson, right. Thompson played for the U.S. Olympic team. (Kevin Wolf -- AP)

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Washington took a 32-31 lead at halftime.

The Mystics opened the second half with a 15-7 run, with nine of the points scored by Beard. She drove for layups, worked inside and hit a three-pointer to put the Mystics up 50-40 with 15:34 remaining.

Houston responded on defense, focusing on stopping Beard. This left other Mystics open. Melvin, Jackson, Coco Miller and Stacey Dales-Schuman made the Comets pay by hitting shots.

"As a team we all have to be ready to perform in times like these," Jackson said, "no matter when you're called."

• SUN 71, STORM 64: Katie Douglas scored 16 of her 21 points in the second half, and host Connecticut spoiled the return of former University of Connecticut star Sue Bird, who plays for Seattle.

• SPARKS 65, MONARCHS 52: Lisa Leslie scored 23 points, and Los Angeles clinched first place in the Western Conference. The Sparks have won nine of their past 10. Yolanda Griffith had 17 points and seven rebounds for Sacramento.

• LIBERTY 64, SILVER STARS 62: Crystal Robinson scored 16 points, and Becky Hammon had 15 to rally host New York past last-place San Antonio and snap a three-game losing streak.

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