Washington Mystics guard Nikki McCray offered no excuses for her dismal first-half performance today. Instead, McCray focused on where she and her teammates took their game during the final 20 minutes, holding off a charge by the Cleveland Rockers for a 63-62 victory--the Mystics' club-record third in a row.
"I just tried to stay poised," said McCray, who score 23 of her game-high 25 points in those final 20 minutes. "I knew it would come to me."
It came in a hurry. McCray, who made 1 of 7 field goal attempts in the first half, ignited a 10-0 run with a three-pointer and a three-point play in transition. Her second three-pointer pushed the Mystics' lead to 45-34 with 15 minutes 57 seconds left.
McCray's charge led the Mystics (9-17) to their first victory over the Rockers (6-20) in seven all-time meetings. The two teams play again Sunday afternoon at MCI Center.
"I felt bad because I wasn't giving my team any energy to feed off of in the first half, especially on defense," said McCray, who finished 10 of 21 from the field, including 2 of 3 from three-point range, and 3 of 3 from the free throw line. Her two free throws in the final 21 seconds proved to be the difference.
McCray and the second half of the Mystics' Tennessee tandem--rookie forward Chamique Holdsclaw--gave the Mystics plenty of energy after a first half that ended in a 27-27 tie.
The Rockers, who lost their third consecutive game, closed to 47-46 on a strong move along the baseline and two free throws by guard Merlakia Jones and a baseline jumper by forward Chasity Melvin with 11:57 left.
But the Mystics responded with a jumper by Holdsclaw and a layup by McCray and extended their lead to 61-52 when McCray hit a jumper with 4:30 remaining.
"They are a two-player team and those two just killed us," said Rockers assistant coach Mike Wilhelm, referring to McCray's second-half effort and the steady play of Holdsclaw.
Holdsclaw, who entered the game averaging a team-best 18 points, scored 12 in the first half and finished with 23.
"I definitely think Nikki and I gave the other players a spark today," Holdsclaw said.
"But we're thinking more as a team and what we can accomplish for the franchise. We're going to try to make it four in a row, then concentrate on a possible playoff spot."
Led by the hustle of Jones, the Rockers nearly rallied. Two free throws by Jones with 52.8 seconds left cut the deficit to 61-60 and, after a battle for a loose ball went out of bounds in favor of the Mystics, McCray hit the winning free throws.
The Rockers got a basket from forward Alisa Burras with 3.3 seconds to go, but Cleveland failed to foul the Mystics as time expired.