Catch the tail end of a Washington Mystics practice and you might see players immersed in a game of H-O-R-S-E. They shoot tricky, off-balanced shots from too far away, and the ball rarely goes in.
Now, the Mystics are taking similar shots during games.
In a 75-65 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Sunday, poor shot selection emerged as the latest in a growing line of Mystics deficiencies. Washington shot 36.7 percent from the field thanks to, as Coach Michael Adams put it, "absolutely miserable decision-making." The loss dropped the Mystics to 4-6 going into tonight's game against the Detroit Shock (6-3) at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Shock has won five games in a row.
"We're not getting the ball inside enough to get our quality shots," said Adams, whose team won in Detroit, 65-63, on June 2. "Players are throwing up jumpers even if they're covered. We haven't taken good shots, so we need to find out where we can get those."
The answer might be simple: Shoot from inside the three-point line. The Mystics make 31 percent from beyond the arc, which is the second-worst average in the WNBA. While guards Coco Miller and Alana Beard are both regarded as good outside shooters, they haven't been this season. Miller has yet to make a three-pointer, while Beard has made just 11 percent.
Adams says he's done everything he can to revive his team's outside touch. In practice, players shoot nearly as many three-pointers as they do free throws.
"We're just not getting results," Adams said. "We've got good shooters on this team, but they aren't making their shots. I don't know if they're struggling to adjust to new roles or what."
The Washington offense works best when it runs through post players Chasity Melvin, Murriel Page and Nakia Sanford. When the Mystics won back-to-back games against New York and San Antonio last week, Adams told his team to get the ball inside to a post player on every possession. As a result, the Mystics scored about half of their points from inside the lane during those two games.
On Sunday, though, the Mystics scored just 20 of their points from inside, leaving Adams with a simple post-game message.
"Basically, he told us to get it down low or we'll keep losing," guard Beard said. "Other than that, he didn't say much. We know what we have to do."
"This is going to be the biggest game of our season," said Stacey Dales-Schuman, who scored a season-high 17 points Sunday. "We need a win and some confidence. Otherwise, we might never get things going."