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Not Pretty, but It's a Win

Holdsclaw Scores 25, Mystics Hang On to Edge Fever: Mystics 69, Fever 64

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 2, 2004; Page D03

A few hours before last night's game, the Washington Mystics closed their locker room door and reached a consensus. They'd forget about statistics or eye-catching plays.

"We don't care how it looks anymore," guard Tamicha Jackson said. "We'll win however we can."

"We were desperate," said Chamique Holdsclaw, here getting triple-teamed. Mystics improved to 6-8. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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But even they didn't picture anything like this.

The Mystics beat the Indiana Fever, 69-64, in front of 14,956 at MCI Center, despite poor shooting and rebounding. Indiana had 19 offensive rebounds -- the most ever by a Mystics opponent -- but shot just 29 percent and failed to slow Mystics star Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored 25 points and had five rebounds.

The Mystics improved to 6-8 and avoided dropping four games under .500 for the first time this season. Indiana fell to 8-7.

"We were desperate," Holdsclaw said. "If we lost this game, our whole season would have been in serious trouble."

The Mystics took control with four minutes left. With the score tied and Holdsclaw double-teamed, forward Murriel Page made back-to-back jumpers to give Washington the lead for good. Then rookie Alana Beard made a key baseline jumper to give the Mystics a 62-56 lead with less than a minute left.

After Beard's jumper, the Mystics showed an excitement they had lacked since the last time they beat Indiana, 68-67, in the second game of the season. In the timeout that followed the decisive shot, Coach Michael Adams screamed to his team: "Now this is what we've wanted. This is what I've been talking about."

"For the first time tonight, we looked hungry," Adams said afterward. "We had more than one player hustling, diving on the floor for the ball. That's the bright spot of our season."

In the first half, the Mystics performed poorly near the basket. Indiana practically played volleyball down low: When one player missed, another batted it back up. The Fever pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the first half -- more than the Mystics have given up in any half all year -- and led 32-30 at the break.

"Our rebounding was top-notch," Indiana Coach Brian Winters said. "It gave us control of the game."

Washington's answer was Holdsclaw. She scored 13 points in the first 20 minutes and provided reliability in an inconsistent offense. When Holdsclaw touched the ball, she usually scored or drew a foul.

When the Mystics failed to find Holdsclaw, though, they settled for difficult jumpers that often ended up air balls. They threw passes out of bounds and bumped into each other on fast breaks.

It was not the offensive display Adams anticipated when he changed the starting lineup. Adams replaced Page and Nakia Sanford with Jackson and forward Chasity Melvin -- both capable offensive players -- and achieved little.

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