The Houston Comets have a playing style that's like a sleek sports car: all speed and style and hum. They have raced to the league's best record this season (6-0) using the same three-pronged attack -- Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson -- against which the rest of the league has struggled.
Tonight, though, it's the Washington Mystics' turn to try to contain the two-time defending WNBA champions, who will play at MCI Center at 7 p.m. The Mystics (1-5) must find a way to keep Houston's big three, a trio that accounts for 75 percent of the team's scoring, from slicing through their defense.
"You've got to mix it up and give them different looks," Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch said of the Comets. "You have to try to play to their strength. But they're so multifaceted and multitalented that it's very hard to stop them all at once. . . . They don't have a weakness, obvious or otherwise."
"This is like playing the  Chicago Bulls," Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw said. "They have three players that can beat you on any night, and they're a veteran team on top of that, and they've played together for three years on top of that. I mean, you can try to play good solid defense, but you can only hope that one or two of them are off. If they're all on, they're deadly."
With Cooper averaging 26.7 points per game and Swoopes 20.3, Houston can put points on the board quickly and the game out of opponents' reach just as fast.
Facing such skilled players, the Mystics will need to stay out of foul trouble. Washington lacks depth, and needs its starting five on the court to be aggressive.
Darsch's former team, the New York Liberty, defeated Houston in a game last season, and Darsch said the key to the victory was "we jumped on them early. We were the aggressor. We controlled the game from the begining."
The Mystics have executed their fast breaks well this season: Guard Andrea Nagy always looks to push the ball to a streaking Murriel Page or Shalonda Enis after every rebound.
"We have very good transition players both at the post and at the perimeter and our first look always needs to be up the floor," Darsch said.
Against Phoenix, Washington's perimeter players had a tough time getting open off screens and losing their defenders, especially late in the game. As a result, the Mystics blew a 16-point halftime lead and eventually the game, 79-76. If Washington hopes to control the rhythm of tonight's game, it will have to execute its pick-and-roll offensive sets and find space for its top outside scorers -- Nikki McCray and Holdsclaw -- to create their own shots.
"Our wings have to do a better job of getting open because [Houston] is able to put very good pressure on you initially," Darsch said. "And if you give them steals early, they really get on a roll."
Mystics Notes: Mystics guard Markita Aldridge collided heads with Nagy and split her lip during yesterday's practice. Although she needed stitches, she is expected to play in tonight's game. . . .
Donations will be collected at tonight's game to raise money for Kosovo refugees. The Mystics also will hold a silent auction of autographed sports items during the game. The program is part of a teaming between Washington Sports and Entertainment chairman Abe Pollin and UNICEF, a nonprofit organization. All proceeds will go directly to the aid of the refugees.
Data: vs. Houston Comets.
Where: MCI Center.
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Washington 1-5, Houston 6-0.
Injuries: Mystics F Heather Owen (shoulder) is on the injured reserve. Comets C Kara Wolters (right knee), G Kim Perrot (cancer) and C Monica Lamb (eye) are on the injured list.