By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The actions of the Washington Mystics' players said it all. Forward Nakia Sanford clapped her hands in frustration while guard Alana Beard stared at Indiana's jubilant players and center Chasity Melvin buried her face into a towel as she sat helplessly on the bench.
The Mystics, who had reveled in victory in each of their previous seven home games, were now forced to watch another team celebrate on the Verizon Center court following a 74-67 loss to the Indiana Fever last night in front of a crowd of 6,003.
"It was like we thought that since we had played so well at home, we were going to step out on the court and getting a win was going to magically happen," Sanford said. "It was just a frustrating game because it was like we couldn't do anything right."
For the Mystics (8-6), there was very little to take from one of their worst performances of the year. They had 21 turnovers that were converted into 22 points. They remained in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings behind leader Connecticut (11-4), Detroit (10-4) and Indiana (11-5).
"This was a game we should have won and we just gave it away," said Beard, who posted a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds. "It was just everyone's fault. No one stepped up and took responsibility."
After playing their worst first half of the year to trail, 28-25, at intermission, the Mystics pulled to within 32-30 and on their next possession, Sanford was called for a moving screen, which made Washington Coach Richie Adubato irate.
Adubato followed referee Keith Kimble across midcourt and screamed his displeasure, resulting in a technical foul. Adubato's outrage with 6 minutes 45 seconds left sparked the Mystics, who responded by tying the game at 43 entering the final quarter.
"We were short-handed up front because of fouls and that made it very difficult for us to win the game," Adubato said. "When you see Alana Beard, who is a guard, lead our team with 10 rebounds and Chasity has only two, that's not good."
The Mystics took a 48-47 lead on Beard's jumper with 6:54 left, but Indiana countered by scoring the next eight points to take a 55-48 lead on a short shot by Tamika Whitmore (team-high 22 points) with 4:57 remaining. The Mystics managed to pull to within 61-58 following Beard's jumper with 1:36 left, but that's as close as they would get. Indiana's Tamika Catchings (15 points) made a three-pointer with 1:04 left to put the game away.
"We knew Washington was undefeated at home and were in the race in the Eastern Conference so that was a lot of motivation for us," Catchings said. "This is a tremendous win for us."
Indiana asserted itself offensively early, as the Fever made three of its first four three-point shots to take a 15-4 lead less than six minutes into the game. The Mystics, who have been nearly unstoppable offensively at home, struggled mightily. The Mystics shot just 3 of 10 from the field and committed six turnovers in their lowest-scoring quarter of the season to trail 22-8 entering the second quarter.
But despite dominating the Mystics for most of the first half, Indiana could not put Washington away. Indiana managed just six points in the second quarter -- the second fewest in a quarter by a team this season -- as it shot 3 of 17 from the field. Indiana's ineptitude allowed the Mystics to pull to within 28-25 at intermission despite posting their lowest-scoring first half of the year.
The Mystics trailed 28-15 with 3:24 left in the quarter, but reeled off the game's next 10 points, capped by Nikki Teasley's jump shot with less than a second remaining in the half.
"When we came in the locker room at halftime, we thought it was like we were just messing around in the first half," Sanford said. "We thought the next 20 minutes would be a lot different."
? SHOCK 63, SILVER STARS 59: Cheryl Ford scored 22 points and had a season-high 19 rebounds to lead visiting Detroit.
? STING 73, LIBERTY 67: Sheri Sam scored 17 points and Tammy Sutton-Brown added 14 to lead Charlotte to its first road victory of the season.
? SUN 73, COMETS 57: Nykesha Sales scored 19 points to help Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut breeze at home.
? STORM 68, MONARCHS 53: Sue Bird scored a season-high 18 points and Lauren Jackson added 16 to lead host Seattle.