With two minutes remaining in Washington's 77-52 loss to the Orlando Miracle at MCI Center last night, the Mystics players sat on the bench during a timeout. They had frustrated expressions on their faces, looking more like students during a chemistry test than professional basketball players during a game.

"I was thinking, `There's two minutes left and we're down by 25, and that should never, ever happen,' " said Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored a team-high 19 points despite a broken finger.

"It shouldn't be that way. . . . I'm upset. That's just the way things are. I don't think we should ever be in this position, and we all know it."

The Mystics (5-12) lost for the third straight time because of poor offensive execution and a 10-for-15 three-point shooting performance by the Miracle. Forward Sheri Sam scored 20 points, 12 on three-pointers.

"We're just really struggling to find the energy level, find the confidence, find the rotation defensively, find our shot," Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch said. "Everything right now is a struggle, and I think what we have is a group of frustrated people."

Every number pointed to a Mystics season that is stuck in reverse. The Mystics' 16 field goals tied a WNBA record for the fewest in a game. They made 16 of 57 shots (28.1 percent) and 4 of 14 three-pointers.

Three players had four fouls. Two players -- Andrea Nagy and Holdsclaw -- had four turnovers. Washington never led before a crowd of 11,008.

"They were bumping us on our cuts and . . . me and Chamique weren't able to penetrate and create," said Mystics guard Nikki McCray, who had 12 points, but made only 5 of 15 shots.

"We're becoming easy to guard. Maybe we need some more wrinkles in our game."

Orlando shut down Washington's inside game, which had been producing to this point. Forwards Murriel Page (1-for-4 shooting, four fouls) and Shalonda Enis (0-for-8 shooting) were ineffective. That left the Mystics' perimeter players scrambling to get off shots, much of the time as the shot clock wound down.

"The basis of the offense is to get the ball to the low post, and we couldn't do that, so we threw up crazy shots," Nagy said.

The Mystics started the game by shooting 3 of 18 with seven turnovers. They shot three air balls in the first half -- two by reserve guard Rita Williams -- and the team had two shot clock violations.

With Washington trailing 28-15, Darsch was called for a technical foul for yelling at the officials.

While the Miracle (8-7) was patiently executing its offense en route to a 37-28 halftime lead, the Mystics were frenetic and careless.

The Mystics "are a team of slashers and they don't have many great shooters," Sam said. "They aren't very confident shooting from the outside. Any time you have a team like that, you've got to make them shoot outside."

The Mystics opened the second half by shooting 2 for 18 in the first 11 minutes 30 seconds. In a five-minute span, Orlando center Taj McWilliams made two three-pointers and Sam made three.

Although the Mystics were finally able to get some flow offensively with Holdsclaw driving on her own and creating shots, Washington was swallowed in Orlando's shooting barrage.

"You can't rely just on your outside shooting, you've got to get it done defensively," Orlando Coach Carolyn Peck said. "We tried to not allow second-chance points."

The plan worked. The Mystics had only 10 possessions in which there were two shots, and they scored on only three of those.

"We don't have much concentration and much focus," Darsch said. "We're just trying harder, or try a different way, and nothing seems to be working."

CAPTION: Chamique Holdsclaw (23) has hand above crowd, which includes teammate Shalonda Enis and Miracle's Shannon Johnson (14) and Andrea Congreaves.