By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
After Washington Mystics games, it is not uncommon for Sheila Johnson, the team's president and managing partner, to drop by her team's locker room to offer a few words of encouragement. Veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said the visits usually are a pat on the back, a study in positive reinforcement.
But last night, with little to be positive about after the Mystics absorbed a 70-52 drubbing by Sacramento in front of 7,553 at Verizon Center, Johnson excoriated her team in a postgame locker room speech that seemed to resonate with the players more than even the physical pounding the Monarchs inflicted.
"That hurts," Milton-Jones said. "When you have the boss coming in here saying how disappointed she is, then you know you better get your [butt] in gear because you could be out of a job. And when they do come in here and question your effort, that's something that should be given anyway."
The Mystics gave their owner plenty to gripe about, falling to 0-2 this season in embarrassing form despite a stellar performance by franchise player Alana Beard, who played for the first time this year because of a left shoulder strain.
Beard scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but it hardly was enough to overcome her team's feeble rebounding and subsequent fourth-quarter collapse.
"Sheila is so passionate about this team, along with her supporting cast; she's doing so much to get this team on the map," Beard said. "That was a powerful speech. I had chills running through me. I was ready to play again."
Everybody in the Mystics organization, it seemed, would have loved a do-over.
Sacramento outrebounded Washington 50-22, including a franchise-record 25 offensive rebounds to the Mystics' five.
Still, Washington led by 14 at one point and the score was tied at 48 late in the third quarter. But after having already asserted their physical dominance, the Monarchs embarked on an 18-0 run that started late in the third quarter and didn't end until past the midway point of the fourth. By then, Sacramento (2-1) had blown open a close game. The Mystics managed just four points in the fourth quarter.
"We need to have a heart check," Milton-Jones said.
The Monarchs, the defending Western Conference champions, made up for a 36 percent shooting night simply by bullying the Mystics into submission.
Washington held a 34-29 halftime lead. But starting center Chasity Melvin picked up her fifth foul early in the third quarter, and Milton-Jones, a power forward, picked up her fourth soon after.
The Monarchs, already known as one of the league's bigger, stronger teams, took full advantage as their rebounding advantage ballooned and set the stage for the blowout. Sacramento outscored Washington 42-16 in the paint.
"That was probably the worst loss we've had in a long time," Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said.
Beard, who late in the third quarter was the only Mystic who had grabbed an offensive rebound, provided the only highlight of the night with her return. She finished with a game-high 17 points while playing a team-high 33 minutes.
But it was far from enough, as the rest of Washington's starters combined to shoot just 6 of 26 and score 19 points, triggering the speech by Johnson.
"She's a passionate lady," Beard said of Johnson, who just had the Mystics' locker room renovated with new carpets and a large projection screen for film study. "It's obvious she's passionate about this team. She's like: 'I'm doing everything in my power [to be successful], and I need your help, too. We've got to meet each other halfway.' "
· SHOCK 85, LYNX 75: Deanna Nolan scored 21 points to lead host Detroit and keep the defending WNBA champion perfect at 2-0.
· SPARKS 81, SKY 64: Chamique Holdsclaw scored 18 points as Los Angeles won in Chicago.