Mystics 69, Fever 64
A few hours before last night's game, the Washington Mystics closed their locker room door and reached a consensus. They'd forget about statistics or eye-catching plays.
"We don't care how it looks anymore," guard Tamicha Jackson said. "We'll win however we can."
But even they didn't picture anything like this.
The Mystics beat the Indiana Fever, 69-64, in front of 14,956 at MCI Center, despite poor shooting and rebounding. Indiana had 19 offensive rebounds -- the most ever by a Mystics opponent -- but shot just 29 percent and failed to slow Mystics star Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored 25 points and had five rebounds.
The Mystics improved to 6-8 and avoided dropping four games under .500 for the first time this season. Indiana fell to 8-7.
"We were desperate," Holdsclaw said. "If we lost this game, our whole season would have been in serious trouble."
The Mystics took control with four minutes left. With the score tied and Holdsclaw double-teamed, forward Murriel Page made back-to-back jumpers to give Washington the lead for good. Then rookie Alana Beard made a key baseline jumper to give the Mystics a 62-56 lead with less than a minute left.
After Beard's jumper, the Mystics showed an excitement they had lacked since the last time they beat Indiana, 68-67, in the second game of the season. In the timeout that followed the decisive shot, Coach Michael Adams screamed to his team: "Now this is what we've wanted. This is what I've been talking about."
"For the first time tonight, we looked hungry," Adams said afterward. "We had more than one player hustling, diving on the floor for the ball. That's the bright spot of our season."
In the first half, the Mystics performed poorly near the basket. Indiana practically played volleyball down low: When one player missed, another batted it back up. The Fever pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the first half -- more than the Mystics have given up in any half all year -- and led 32-30 at the break.
"Our rebounding was top-notch," Indiana Coach Brian Winters said. "It gave us control of the game."
Washington's answer was Holdsclaw. She scored 13 points in the first 20 minutes and provided reliability in an inconsistent offense. When Holdsclaw touched the ball, she usually scored or drew a foul.
When the Mystics failed to find Holdsclaw, though, they settled for difficult jumpers that often ended up air balls. They threw passes out of bounds and bumped into each other on fast breaks.
It was not the offensive display Adams anticipated when he changed the starting lineup. Adams replaced Page and Nakia Sanford with Jackson and forward Chasity Melvin -- both capable offensive players -- and achieved little.
In fact, the new group's play so frustrated Adams that, three minutes into the game, he ordered it to stop shooting from outside. "Do we have anybody around here that can shoot?" Adams asked.
"We looked pretty bad the whole game," Beard said. "But we're not going to remember that, because we won."
Mystics Notes: Washington waived forward Petra Ujhelyi, who had remained on the injured list all season. The move leaves the Mystics with a roster spot, and they're looking at three players -- all guards or small forwards with WNBA experience -- as possibilities to fill it soon.
* MERCURY 71, STING 59: Diana Taurasi had a career-high 29 points and made six three-pointers to lead visiting Phoenix.
"There was no answer for her," Charlotte Coach Trudi Lacey said.
The Mercury shot 73 percent from behind the arc. Taurasi was 6 of 7 from three-point range and Anna DeForge went 3 for 4.
* MONARCHS 73, LIBERTY 47: Tangela Smith scored 17 points to lead host Sacramento to its third straight victory. New York has lost eight of nine since a 6-1 start.
* STORM 76, SILVER STARS 52: Sue Bird scored 20 points and host Seattle used a dominating first half to coast to victory.