Washington Mystics rookie star Chamique Holdsclaw, who struggled in the first half and who apparently did not show Coach Nancy Darsch she was willing to reverse her lackluster performance, was benched for the final 16 minutes of Washington's 48-45 season-ending loss to the Minnesota Lynx last night before 19,839 at MCI Center.

Seeing Holdsclaw, one of the WNBA's marquee players and a 2000 Olympian, on the bench while the Mystics fell behind by 15 points in the season finale, prompted questions neither she nor Darsch wanted to answer in detail.

"She was on the bench," said Darsch, who was booed mildly during a postgame tribute to the crowd. "Chamique was on the bench. That's all I have to say about that. I make the decisions. It was basketball. It was definitely basketball. I didn't think she was performing very well. Then, it just lingered."

Holdsclaw never was a factor. She missed all three shots she took, grabbed five rebounds and registered three fouls before Darsch took her out. It was the first time Holdsclaw went scoreless all season. The last time she failed to score since "probably in high school or something," Holdsclaw said. She never went scoreless in college at Tennessee.

"I guess I didn't do a good job," Holdsclaw said. "I'm just glad that this nightmare, to a certain degree, is over. This is how the season has gone. There's points where we've been high and points where we've been down. You just kind of accept it.

"It kind of motivates you. Next season, I'm going to have a new attitude. I'm going to own up to more responsibility on this team."

With Holdsclaw, the team's second-leading scorer, on the bench, Washington fell behind 40-25 early in the second half but scrapped its way back to make it close at the end. Murriel Page's layup with 4.5 seconds remaining brought the Mystics to 46-45 but the basket came too late.

Minnesota guard Tonya Edwards, who tied teammate Katie Smith with a team-high 17 points, buried two free throws in the waning seconds to improve the expansion Lynx to 15-17. Nikki McCray led Washington with a game-high 19 points. Forward Shalonda Enis added 13.

The loss was Washington's third in a row, a string that dampened a season in which Washington improved to 12-20 after finishing with a league-worst 3-27 record last season. The Mystics had won six straight and held out hopes for a playoff berth before the losing streak.

"That's not good enough," Darsch said. "People are congratulating us on winning 12 games and having the six-game winning streak. That's all well and good, but our goals were higher. It was inconsistent and not the way we wanted to finish the season."

After using a 10-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 29-22 halftime lead over the Mystics, Minnesota opened the second half with an 11-2 burst to go up 40-25. Smith and Edwards scored all of the Lynx' points in the second half run with Edwards dropping in six points.

SHOCK 74, MIRACLE 68: Wendy Palmer had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Jen Azzi added 27 points to lead host Detroit to its first playoff berth in team history.

COMETS 74, MONARCHS 65: Cynthia Cooper, returning after missing one game following the death of teammate and best friend Kim Perrot, scored 27 points and had 10 assists as Houston downed host Sacramento.

STARZZ 89, SPARKS 81: LaTonya Johnson scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half as host Utah ended the regular season with a victory over playoff-bound Los Angeles.

ROCKERS FIRE COACH: Cleveland fired Coach Linda Hill-MacDonald after the team's 66-56 victory over New York. The team also announced that assistant coach Susan Yow was also fired.