Mystics' Starters Sputter
Holdsclaw Has 29, Gets Little Help: Sparks 95, Mystics 79
By Christian Swezey
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 26, 2004; Page D03
Chamique Holdsclaw, her 29 points gone to waste, left the MCI Center floor last night frustrated and without a postgame handshake after the Washington Mystics' 95-79 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
The loss dropped the Mystics to 1-2 -- with both losses coming at home -- and raised two early-season issues about this team: their ability to get scoring outside of Holdsclaw and their ability to win at home.
Last night, before 12,117, no other starter apart from Holdsclaw had more than eight points. Holdsclaw's point total, meanwhile, tied the record for fourth most in team history.
"We've come into two home games and haven't competed," Washington Coach Michael Adams said. "We've let other teams walk over us. We need to look in the mirror and see who's doing the job and who isn't. . . . We've got to get better production from the people who are starting. If not, we will look to other people to start."
Los Angeles (1-1) is the three-time defending Western Conference champion and won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002.
The Mystics, meantime, entered with an all-time record of 15-46 against Western Conference teams and dropped to 3-10 against Los Angeles.
The discrepancy showed in the opening minutes. Los Angeles scored baskets on its first five possessions and led 10-2 following a jump shot by Nikki Teasley with 17 minutes 37 seconds left in the half.
Washington answered with a 21-12 run and led 23-22 following two free throws by rookie Alana Beard (eight points) with 9:06 left. The run got the crowd back into the game.
The crowd reached an even more fevered pitch with 7:51 remaining. Sparks star Lisa Leslie and Washington reserve Murriel Page dove for a loose ball underneath the Washington basket and, as the players wrestled for the ball, it appeared Page elbowed Leslie.
Los Angeles Coach Michael Cooper raced onto the court, the players had to be separated and the fans roared. Page was given a technical foul. Less than a minute later, Leslie picked up her third personal foul and left for the remainder of the half.
The Mystics trailed 27-26 at that point. With Leslie on the bench, the Mystics took a 32-30 lead following a three-point play by Holdsclaw with 5:49 left in the half.
That was their last lead. Los Angeles closed the half on a 19-10 run and led 49-42 at halftime, despite a 29-foot three-pointer by Holdsclaw at the buzzer.
The Sparks opened the second half much as they had the first. Los Angeles scored on six of its first seven possessions and led 63-46 following a three-pointer by DeLisha Milton-Jones with 16:33 left in the half.
Meantime, the Mystics missed seven of their first nine shots in the second half. Los Angeles took its largest lead at 88-65 following a jump shot by Leslie with 4:51 left. The Mystics scored 10 straight points and closed to 88-75 following a put-back by Stacey Dales-Schuman with 3:47 left but did not get closer.
"It's a matter of us putting together 40 minutes," Holdsclaw said. "We have a lot more talent this year, but we go out and play in spurts."
Five players scored in double figures for Los Angeles. Mwadi Mabika and Milton-Jones each had 20 points, Leslie added 18 points and 7 rebounds and Teasley (St. John's/Prospect Hall High) had 14 points and 10 assists.
"We had a lot of bad individual matchups," Adams said. "They have a lot of people, people at four or five positions who can put the ball on the floor. That's a tough matchup. We can't be intimidated, we've got to compete and we didn't compete at all."
Reserves Kiesha Brown had a career-high 13 points and Aiysha Smith added 10 points for Washington. Beard, the team's No. 2 overall pick from Duke, made only 1 of 7 field goals and has made 7 of 27 this year (.259 percent).
"Personally, I am not playing my best ball right now," Beard said. "I think I have a lot to learn. But I'll get there."
Mystics Note: Holdsclaw has six of the seven highest-scoring games in the franchise's seven-year history. The team high is 32 points, which she set against Seattle in 2002.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company