It had all the makings of a rough road for the Mystics. In the six-game trip that began tonight, Washington was facing one of the better teams in the league in Minnesota, which had won five of its last six games.
Instead, things started smoothly, and the Mystics won for the first time in five games, defeating the Lynx, 60-55, at Target Center before a crowd of 10,098.
The Mystics came out loose and stayed that way. Thursday's day off, awarded by Coach Nancy Darsch, appeared to have helped the club -- as did an opportunistic defense.
"We tried to break the cycle for how bad we have been feeling of late," Darsch said. "[The players] were tired. We needed a change."
Part of that change included going to the Mall of America and having dinner together as a team for the first time this season.
And it was a team effort that helped stave off several Lynx comebacks. Nikki McCray led the Mystics (6-13) with 19 points and four assists, and Chamique Holdsclaw added 16 points. Forward Murriel Page had 10 points.
"This is a good start," Page said. "We didn't have a good start after the all-star break. There's no better feeling than winning on the road."
Brandy Reed, whose 26-point performance fueled a 76-67 Lynx road victory over the Sting on Wednesday, matched a career high with 28 tonight. She tied the game at 55 with a jump shot from the right side with just under a minute remaining in the game.
On the ensuing possession, McCray was fouled under the basket by Tonya Edwards. She hit two free throws, and added two more with 8.7 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.
"It was important for us to break that four-game losing streak, especially against a team that was as hot as Minnesota," Darsch said.
Washington had a small scare with just under 13 minutes to play when Holdsclaw jarred her left elbow trying to chase down a loose ball. Holdsclaw, who is still recovering from a fractured finger, left the game for a few minutes and iced her elbow before returning.
"Yes, oh yes, that scared me," Darsch said. "She couldn't squeeze her hand on the sidelines."
Darsch said the fact that the team came out playing hard in the second half helped tremendously down the stretch. Page was key for Washington in the second half, leading an aggressive defense, hustling for loose balls, drawing fouls and grabbing six rebounds.