Washington Mystics clinch WNBA playoff berth with win over Seattle Storm

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2010; 11:47 PM

The Washington Mystics had trailed since midway through the first quarter in a tight matchup against the WNBA-leading Seattle Storm when they began to rally in the third. It's been Washington's favorite 10-minute frame all week and against the Storm, which has long since clinched the top seed in the Western Conference and the league's regular season crown, the Mystics staked their claim once more.

As the Washington defense refused to cower when facing a roster full of all-stars, the Storm blinked. Offensive fouls by Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson on consecutive Seattle possessions led to the Mystics tying the score then taking a lead off a jump shot by Lindsey Harding. The game continued in close fashion, but Washington never trailed again in an eventual 80-71 win over Seattle (25-6) that brought the 9,438 at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon to their feet for the final minute.

"Playing against a team like that, they play hard they're physical, they have people who have a variety of things and you gauge yourself" with games like this, veteran guard Katie Smith said. "You understand the level that you need to be at every night. It's fun to play against teams that are good and executing and playing well."

By winning their third straight contest combined with a 79-66 Connecticut loss to Indiana, the Mystics (19-12) clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and set a new franchise record for wins. This playoff berth marks the first time in Washington's history that it will appear in the postseason in consecutive years. Indiana (21-10), New York (19-11) and Atlanta (19-13) have also sealed their trip to the playoffs.

Where the Mystics will finish, however, remains to be determined. Seeding hinges on the results of their three final regular season contests, including games against New York and Atlanta with tiebreakers against each team and perhaps home-court advantage in the first round up for grabs.

"It's nice to know that you've worked hard, you've put yourself in the position where you're in control," Smith said. "It's really nice that it [won't] have to come down to the last game of the season when you need to win or you're not in. Now we have to play for a high seed."

In the third quarter, Washington's ability to consistently hit three-point attempts fueled a 13-4 run that allowed the Mystics to regain the lead. Led by Monique Currie, who tallied 25 points and a 5-for-7 performance from three-point range, including two during that stretch, Washington finished 9-for-19 behind the arc as part of a 26-for-60 overall shooting effort.

-- FEVER 79, SUN 66: In Uncasville, Conn., Tamika Catchings scored 26 points to help Indiana eliminate Connecticut from playoff contention for the second straight season. Indiana (21-10) increased its lead in the East to 1 1/2 games over idle New York.

-- LYNX 84, SILVER STARS 78: Lindsay Whalen scored 21 points, including six free throws in the final minute, and host Minnesota tightened the Western Conference playoff race.

- Associated Press

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