Mystics 74, Lynx 71
The Washington Mystics had hoped that Alana Beard's return would improve their fortunes. Missing their top returning scorer from last season, the Mystics had lost three of their first four games.
Beard's season debut proved to be the remedy for the Mystics' woes. Washington ended its three-game skid by defeating Minnesota, 74-71, last night before 9,620 at MCI Center.
"Before the game in the locker room, I put an old saying of mine on the board -- sometimes it works: 'You've got to dig down deep,' " Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "Because our backs were at the wall. We could not afford to get four losses at home. This was a must game for us."
Chasity Melvin finished with season highs in points (17) and rebounds (10) for Washington (2-3), which had four players in double figures. The double-double was Melvin's first this season. Rookie Temeka Johnson had 10 assists -- her second straight game in double figures in that category -- and 12 points for the first double-double of her professional career.
Sitting courtside, Wizards players Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood saw Washington win its first home game this season.
"Sometimes pressure can hurt you or it can make you better, and tonight it made us better," Melvin said. "It shows that we have great character on this team. Hopefully, we can just move on from here."
Beard, who missed the first four games because of a right ankle sprain, started in place of Coco Miller. She admitted that she was a bit rusty early in the game. She missed her first two shots and her first three free throws, but her presence alone made a significant difference for Washington.
"We look completely different" as a team, Adubato said. "It's the charisma that she brings to the court. It's the excitement that she brings to the court."
Beard, as was the case last season, played point guard and shooting guard. She scored 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting and had two assists.
"I felt good," she said. "I've got to get my legs underneath me a little bit more, but, hey, it felt good. After my first couple shots, I think I started to get back into it a little bit."
In the first half, Beard fell to the court after being fouled by Amanda Lassiter and came up limping. Beard grimaced while jogging to the bench for a timeout. She came back from the break and made both free throws.
DeLisha Milton-Jones, who sat out Wednesday's game against New York because of a right knee strain, entered with 13 minutes 58 seconds remaining in the first half. She finished with 16 points.
"I feel much more confident with the offenses now," Milton-Jones said. "I don't feel like I'm in other people's way. It flows better now."
Milton-Jones, who was acquired by Washington in a trade with Los Angeles for Chamique Holdsclaw, has had a slow start to her season after missing most of training camp. But after her performance last night, she appears to be hitting her stride.
"I do read what's on the Internet and the comments that people have to make about my play here and what they think about the trade," Milton-Jones said. "They think I should go back to L.A. and all this kind of stuff. That's all fine and dandy. I don't take offense to it. I just use it as motivation."
The situation appeared grim for Washington after Beard picked up her third and fourth fouls within a two-minute span in the second half. Her fourth foul came on the offensive end when Katie Smith (20 points) drew the charge.
With Beard in foul trouble, Adubato sent Laurie Koehn into the game and she immediately sank a three-point basket. Her field goal began a three-point spree by the Mystics. Milton-Jones made back-to-back three-pointers to give Washington the lead for the first time since 20-18.
The Mystics managed to hold off the Lynx by getting contributions underneath the basket as well as from the perimeter. Melvin scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half, including six straight points during a crucial second-half stretch.
* SHOCK 68, LIBERTY 66: Deanna Nolan scored 27 of her franchise-record 34 points after halftime to lead unbeaten Detroit at home in overtime.
Nolan was 9-for-19 shooting and 13 of 16 from the free throw line for the Shock (4-0). She broke Sandy Brondello's six-year-old team record of 33 points.
Crystal Robinson led New York (1-3) with 13 points. New York led by 13 midway through the second half before the Shock began its comeback and tied the game at 54 at the end of regulation.
Nolan had seven points in Detroit's 9-2 run to start overtime.