By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Washington Mystics point guard Nikki Teasley propped her leg on the scorers' table to stretch her chronically sore right knee during warmups. Then she switched legs to loosen up her sprained left knee.
Teasley's knees have kept her out of several games this season, but the six-year veteran wasn't about to miss last night's game against the Connecticut Sun at Verizon Center. Not when a win would strengthen the Mystics' playoff hopes and a loss would have made things much more difficult.
There were points where her mobility was noticeably limited, but Teasley played more than 34 minutes in the Mystics' 65-64 win over the Sun last night.
The victory, combined with New York's 77-65 loss to Chicago, gives Washington (15-17) a 1 1/2 -game advantage over the Liberty in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. If Washington defeats New York at Verizon Center tomorrow, it would clinch its second playoff berth in as many years.
"That one was a big one for us," Coach Tree Rollins said. "Some people may see it like we're fighting for our lives, but we're in the house -- we just have to keep the door closed."
Teasley missed Washington's previous game, a 86-82 overtime loss to Sacramento on Sunday, but was quickly in form as she conducted her team's offense and slowed the game's tempo when the Sun (17-14) ran up a 13-point lead.
"I was in pain this morning," Teasley said as she sat with an enormous ice pack wrapped around each knee after the game. "But I went home, got something to eat, said a prayer and got myself together and came back and tried to mentally block it out."
"It's her presence," said guard Alana Beard, who scored a team-high 28 points. "Other teams don't know what she's going to do. Nikki Teasley can break you down, go to the hole, hit the three, pull up for the 15-footer and pass the ball. So you have to have your eyes on her at all times, which gets the wings and post players open."
Early on, the Mystics had plenty of unforced turnovers and missed shots. They were 3 for 15 from the field in the first quarter. Washington trailed throughout the half but rallied in the second quarter to reach the break down 36-30.
But the Mystics still weren't playing like a team with a playoff spot to fight for, and the usually quiet Teasley let her teammates know it.
"I feel like having been there to the championship and to the playoffs so many times with previous teams that I have to step up and say something because I have experience," Teasley said. "I'm also one of the leaders on this team. That's why I told them we can't wait for New York to lose. We can't wait for Chicago to beat somebody. We have to go out and get it done."
Teasley's stance resonated with the Mystics, who outscored the Sun 35-28 in the second half.
"Nikki's a great leader, and her saying that really speaks volumes," said Coco Miller, who scored 15 points as a reserve. "She leads more by example, but she says things now and then. We really needed that at halftime."
Beard, who notched all 18 of the Mystics' fourth-quarter points, also gave credit to Teasley and her outspokenness.
"A lot of times you don't hear from her," Beard said. "The only time you hear from Nikki Teasley is on the floor, when she's directing traffic.
"She didn't have to play tonight. I'm sure she played in pain tonight. But she stepped it up and played with heart. She sucked it up for the team."
Mystics Notes: Before the game, Sheila Johnson, the Mystics' president and managing partner, presented Beard and Miller each with a game ball from Saturday's loss in Seattle. Beard recorded her 2,000th career point and Miller her 500th career rebound in that game.
· SKY 77, LIBERTY 65: Jia Perkins scored 24 points as host Chicago (13-19) snapped a five-game losing streak and handed New York (13-18) its 10th loss in 13 games.
Chasity Melvin, the Sky's starting center, was taken to a hospital after she was poked in the left eye in the first quarter. Preliminary tests showed no loss of vision, a team spokeswoman said.
· COMETS 81, SHOCK 73: Tina Thompson had 25 points and nine rebounds as visiting Houston (12-20) beat Detroit (24-8), which played without all-stars Cheryl Ford (knee) and Kara Braxton (suspension).
· STORM 81, LYNX 67: Lauren Jackson had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Seattle (16-17) pulled away from visiting Minnesota (8-24) in the fourth quarter.
· SILVER STARS 84, SPARKS 77: Sophia Young and Vickie Johnson each scored 19 points for visiting San Antonio (20-11) in its overtime win over Los Angeles (10-22).
Staff writer Marc Carig contributed to this report.