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In WNBA playoff opener, Washington Mystics' defensive struggles lead to 95-90 loss to Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry, top, shoots over Washington Mystics' Katie Smith, left, Crystal Langhorne, second from left, and Lindsey Harding (10) during the first half of an WNBA playoff basketball game, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry, top, shoots over Washington Mystics' Katie Smith, left, Crystal Langhorne, second from left, and Lindsey Harding (10) during the first half of an WNBA playoff basketball game, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) (Nick Wass - AP)

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By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2010; 12:30 AM

The Washington Mystics came into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a franchise-best 22 wins, a six-game winning streak and the top seed in the East.

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The one thing they forgot to bring was their defense.

Washington's defensive shortcomings led to its 95-90 loss to the fourth-seeded Atlanta Dream on Wednesday night before 10,322 at Verizon Center.

"I was very disappointed with our defensive effort," Coach Julie Plank said. "You can't give up 95 points. . . . Whether we were in man or we were in zone, their dribble penetration hurt us a lot. We were fouling too much, and they pretty much got what they wanted."

After fighting and scrapping for home-court advantage late in the season, the Mystics squandered that advantage and face elimination from the playoffs on Friday when they play Game 2 in Atlanta.

The Mystics, who haven't won a playoff game since Sept. 25, 2004, have suffered seven consecutive postseason losses.

This game set up as a classic matchup of offense vs. defense. Washington had held its opponents to a league-low 73.3 points per game during the regular season, while Atlanta boasted the second-most prolific offense in the WNBA (85.4 ppg). On this night, offense won.

The Dream, which had stumbled into the playoffs, losing six of its previous seven, looked more ready for the postseason than Washington. Atlanta sank 53.5 percent of its shots, scoring easily and often against the Mystics.

Angel McCoughtry led the way for the Dream, scoring 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, as four players scored in double figures for Atlanta.

Washington had five players score in double figures, led by Marissa Coleman's career-high 18 points.

After falling behind by 17 points in the second half, Washington's dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against a team it had beaten in three of four meetings this season proved too little, too late. Coleman scored 14 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to propel the rally. Her three-point play capped a 10-0 run by the Mystics. She sank a three-pointer a little more than a minute later to pull Washington to 71-66.

"My main goal and role is just to bring energy and try to help out on defense," Coleman said. "We were down and had nothing-to-lose type of thing."


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