By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 26, 2006
Washington Coach Richie Adubato pulled Nikki Teasley aside during halftime and gave the point guard an order before she returned to yesterday's game against Connecticut at Verizon Center.
"I told her that she has a hot hand," Adubato said. "And because she had a hot hand, she shouldn't look to be the true point guard she likes to be by passing the ball. She needed to score."
And that's what Teasley did. She posted nine of her 16 points in the second half, but none bigger than two driving layups in the final 1 minute 39 seconds to lead the Mystics to an 87-80 victory over the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Sun.
Washington center Chasity Melvin scored a season-high 25 points, shooting guard Alana Beard added 15 points and power forward Nakia Sanford -- filling in for the injured DeLisha Milton-Jones -- recorded 10 points and nine rebounds as the Mystics set a franchise record with their ninth consecutive home win, in front of a crowd of 7,216.
The Mystics (8-5) remained in fourth place behind Detroit (9-4) and 1 1/2 games behind Connecticut (10-4), which entered last night tied atop the conference standings with Indiana, which Washington will host tomorrow night at 7.
"We knew how big a game this was and we had a lot of pressure on us to keep up with Connecticut," said Melvin, who added a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Mystics, who led 72-61 with 7:52 remaining, saw their lead trimmed to one after Nykesha Sales's jump shot with 1:55 remaining. But Teasley pushed the lead to 81-78 with 1:39 left when she spun around two defenders for a layup. After Sanford's free throw extended the lead to 82-78, Teasley put the game away on another driving layup on the Mystics' ensuing possession with 30 seconds left after Asjha Jones was called for an offensive foul. "I saw that Connecticut wasn't coming off screens very well and when I saw I had the space to go to the basket, I took it," said Teasley, who also had a team-high five assists. "I think as a team we really took advantage of the opportunities they gave us."
Connecticut, which was led by forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Sales (15 points), suffered its first loss against the Mystics in eight games dating from 2004.
After the Mystics used a dominating first-half performance to take a 52-42 lead at intermission, the Sun stormed back. Connecticut was unstoppable during the third quarter as Jones tied the game at 59 with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:34 remaining. But Washington, which had fallen apart in the second half during recent losses to New York and Detroit, kept its composure and used two layups by Melvin and another by Teasley to take a 65-61 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Mystics' great first quarter was defined by one possession, which players felt set the tone for the rest of the game. Leading 20-16 with two minutes left, the Mystics grabbed four consecutive rebounds -- outmuscling the Sun for each one -- before Crystal Robinson made a fadeaway three-pointer from the baseline to push the lead to 23-16 with 1:29 left. The play highlighted an opening quarter in which Washington shot 11 of 20 from the field to take a 27-16 lead.
"You can call it mojo, you can call if confidence -- you can call it whatever you want but we got it back tonight," said Robinson, who added eight points. "We now know we have what it takes to beat a great team."
? SPARKS 105, SILVER STARS 80: Lisa Leslie became the first WNBA player to surpass 5,000 career points when she scored a career-high 41 to lead Los Angeles at home.
? COMETS 84, STORM 74: Tina Thompson scored 21 points and Sheryl Swoopes added 19, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to lead Houston at home.
? SHOCK 71, STING 61: Deanna Nolan tied a team record by scoring 20 of her 26 points in the second half as host Detroit came from behind.
? MONARCHS 82, FEVER 61: Yolanda Griffith, Erin Buescher and DeMya Walker each scored 11 points as Sacramento cruised at home.
? MERCURY 90, SKY 77: In Phoenix, Cappie Pondexter scored 23 points to lead the Mercury past Chicago, handing the expansion Sky its league-record 13th straight loss.