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Mystics' Defeat 'Hurts a Ton'

Sun 78, Mystics 69

By Jeff Goodman
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page D02

UNCASVILLE, Conn., June 30 -- When Chamique Holdsclaw misses half of her free throws and commits half of the team's turnovers, the Washington Mystics don't have much of a chance.

Not only did the Mystics' star player and the league's scoring leader connect on just 5 of 10 free throws, but she also committed eight turnovers as the Connecticut Sun cruised to its season-high fifth straight win, 78-69, over Washington on Wednesday night.

Chamique Holdsclaw struggles from the free throw line as the Mystics tumble in Connecticut. (Bob Child - AP)

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The Mystics fell to 5-8 and lost their third in four games. Connecticut (9-7) knocked off Washington for the third time this season.

"This one hurts a ton," Mystics Coach Michael Adams said. "We can't fall too far behind. The East is so close, but we've got a mountain to climb and it just got a little higher. Now there's a sense of urgency for us. We've still got a chance to make the playoffs."

Connecticut took an early lead, but the Mystics found a way to hang around in the first half. Sun forward Jessica Brungo's three-pointer gave Connecticut its largest lead of the half, 23-13, but Washington went on a 10-3 run with Chasity Melvin scoring a pair of baskets. The Mystics trailed by four at the end of the first half.

It looked as if Connecticut was ready to put the game out of reach early in the second half when Katie Douglas caught fire from long range, knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes after the break. After a pair of inside baskets from Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Wendy Palmer, the Mystics found themselves down 51-38 with 15 minutes 12 seconds remaining.

"We did a good job attacking in the first half," Holdsclaw said. "Then we started settling for off-balance shots and stopped attacking the basket."

"I was awful," added Holdsclaw. "It was just one of those days. Everybody has them."

Despite Holdsclaw's struggles, Washington managed to stay in the game. The Mystics ran off seven consecutive points and cut the deficit to six on a free throw and layup from Stacey Dales-Schuman and baskets from Alana Beard and Melvin.

Then it was all Connecticut. Lindsay Whalen sank a pair of free throws and after Holdsclaw missed two foul shots, the Sun reeled off seven points to extend the lead to 60-45. Holdsclaw had a chance to cut it to seven with two minutes left, but she missed an easy layup and Whalen put the game out of reach with two free throws.

"It was a sluggish game, but we had good starts to both halves," Sun Coach Mike Thibault said. "When you get to the free throw line as much as we did, it's big. We got to the basket and didn't settle for jump shots."

Holdsclaw finished with 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting. It was the fifth straight game she scored 20 or more.

Dales-Schuman added 12 points and Melvin had 11 before fouling out with four minutes left. All five starters for the Sun scored in double figures. Palmer, McWilliams and Nykesha Sales all finished with 13 points.

The Mystics, who entered the game second in the league in turnovers, committed 16 in the loss and actually shot the same from the field as from the foul line -- 45.8 percent.

"It's frustrating because we're inconsistent," Holdsclaw said. "The hardest part is that we're talented and we should be one of the top two teams in the East, but we're just not playing to our capabilities."

LYNX 58, COMETS 50: Katie Smith had 20 of her 23 points in the second half and overtime for host Minnesota.

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