Mystics Fall to Mercury, 93-87

"You just can't come out that slow against an offensive team," said Washington's Crystal Langhorne, right, who finished with a 12 rebounds. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 26, 2009

After falling prey to yet another sluggish start and a slower tempo that did more to hamper the Washington Mystics' game than to thwart the Phoenix Mercury's sharpshooters, there was little choice for the home team. Rather than shy away from the intimidating fast pace of the WNBA's most high-powered offense last night at Verizon Center, the Mystics needed to combat speed with speed.

The problem with engaging in a good old-fashioned shootout with the Mercury though, is that it's like challenging cheetahs to a track meet -- the challengers rarely stand a chance.

The Mystics snapped at Phoenix's heels throughout the second half and pulled to within two points with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Washington was ultimately unable to eclipse the premier run-and-gun squad, however, and fell for the first time at home this season, 93-87.

"We didn't get stops at crucial times during the game," said Mystics guard Alana Beard, who scored a team-high 21 points. "I thought we did a great job of picking up our defense and attacking them just the way they were attacking us, but toward the end we were trading baskets. We couldn't put together three and four stops in a row when we needed that."

For the third straight game, Washington (4-2) stumbled after the opening tip-off. The Mystics managed steals and knocked Phoenix (6-3) out of its offensive rhythm by swatting away passes and shots, but the Mystics failed to record a field goal for the final 6 minutes 27 seconds in the first quarter, and could do little but watch the Mercury run up a 26-13 lead after a 16-2 run to end the frame.

Washington's woes may have been no more apparent than during its first possession of the ensuing quarter, when center Chasity Melvin, who finished with nine points on 4-for-12 shooting, failed on three successive layup attempts in the span of about 10 seconds.

"We were all pretty frustrated that we weren't making any shots," said second-year center Crystal Langhorne, who grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds in addition to 16 points.

"We were down by [13] and we just needed to start playing our game," Langhorne added. "We were just missing shots -- easy shots too -- layups, everything. You just can't come out that slow against an offensive team."

By the time the Mystics found the basket, they were chasing a 15-point Phoenix advantage and the difficulty of their task had increased exponentially. They needed to score often and find a way to counteract Olympians Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, who combined for 47 points.

When Taurasi slumped in the middle of the game -- she scored five points in the second and third quarters combined -- Washington surged. The Mystics ran plays that fed Beard through the low block, allowing her to score nine of Washington's final 12 points in the third quarter.

"We made some mental mistakes at the end, we just didn't communicate at the end," Langhorne said. "It wasn't just at the end though, it was all throughout the game. Coming out slow, in the first quarter being down 10 almost instantly and trailing the whole game. It's tough to play like that."

Mystics Note: Rookie forward Marissa Coleman missed her third game since suffering a high-ankle sprain that could keep her sidelined for four to six weeks. Kristen Mann returned to Washington's lineup after missing two straight games with an illness, but did not see any playing time.

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