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Sun's Early Rise Forces Game 3

Washington Fails To Execute Plan Or Stop Whalen: Sun 80, Mystics 70

By Dan Lauletta
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 28, 2004; Page D03

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 27 -- The Washington Mystics squandered a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, slipping into an early 16-point deficit and never recovering en route to an 80-70 loss to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday night. The teams will reconvene here Wednesday night to decide the series.

"We need to correct a few things and set the tone," guard Alana Beard said. "They set the tone tonight and we have to come out and set the tone [Wednesday]. We have to correct a few things."

Lindsay Whalen (21 points, six assists), looks to pass out of a double-team by Tamicha Jackson, right, and Alana Beard. (John Spivey -- AP)

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In a role reversal from Saturday's Game 1, the Sun was the more aggressive, better-shooting team, advancing to a 19-3 lead and keeping the pressure on the visiting Mystics throughout the evening.

Mystics Coach Michael Adams had wanted his team to get the ball into the post and not settle for outside shots, similar to its play in taking Game 1 in Washington. Instead, the Mystics turned the ball over on the perimeter, settled for poorly selected jump shots by Beard on their first two possessions and found themselves down 8-0 less than two minutes after the opening tip-off.

"It was very disappointing for our team to come out the way we did and play that way," Adams said. "We got tentative out there."

"We beat ourselves," Beard said, then added, "but I'm not taking anything away from them."

In addition to abandoning their game plan, the Mystics had no answer for the penetration of Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen. The rookie converted 15 of 16 free throws and finished with 21 points and six assists, including one late in the first half when she brought the crowd to its feet by drawing two Mystics defenders before dishing to Asjha Jones for an easy layup.

The Mystics were led by 17 points from Tamicha Jackson, who equaled her season high from opening day. Jackson kept the Mystics within striking distance by quickly scoring five points upon entering the game and nailing a three-pointer to rescue a lethargic possession at the end of the first half. The penultimate possession of the opening half saw the Mystics' Stacey Dales-Schuman make three free throws after being hacked by Nykesha Sales while attempting a three-pointer.

The strong close to the first half sent the Mystics to the break down only 42-34 when a double-digit deficit seemed probable.

But the visitors started slowly again in the second half, immediately allowing the Sun a 9-2 run to extend to a 51-36 advantage. The lead increased to 63-43 with 11 minutes 48 seconds remaining when Sun guard Debbie Black threw up a desperation three-pointer that rattled twice off the rim and dropped in as the shot clock expired.

Beard suffered through a poor shooting night, hitting only one of her first 10 shots before finishing up with a trio of layups to help keep the final score respectable. She finished up with 15 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Her two assists were the only ones by any member of the starting five and the Mystics ended the night with a disturbingly low six total assists.

"That's not gonna cut it," Dales-Schuman said. "When we play good, it's as a team and when we don't play as a team we don't play well."

Asked about playing well as a team in Wednesday's do-or-die Game 3, Dales-Schuman said, "I guarantee that we will do that."

Wednesday's Game 3 will be the second in Mystics' history. They lost, 64-57, to the New York Liberty in Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.

"It's gonna be a dogfight, I can tell you that," Beard promised.

STORM 64, LYNX 54: In Seattle, Lauren Jackson scored 18 points and the Storm advanced past Minnesota to the Western Conference finals.

Seattle swept the best-of-three series, winning Game 1 in Minnesota, 70-58, on Saturday.

It is the first time Seattle has advanced past the first round of the playoffs. The Storm was swept by Los Angeles in 2002, its only other playoff appearance.

The Storm lost starting point guard and U.S. Olympian Sue Bird to a broken nose early in the first half. She was hit with an elbow while setting a screen on Minnesota's Teresa Edwards.

Bird returned to the Seattle bench midway through the second half holding an ice bag over her nose and watched her team put together an impressive run to end Minnesota's season.

Down 48-45 with just less than 10 minutes remaining, Seattle went on a 14-1 run over the next seven minutes to take a 59-49 lead. The Storm scored 19 of the game's final 25 points.

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