Despite injuries, the late arrival of two key players from overseas commitments and the breaking in of a new coach and new system, the Washington Mystics have been in position to win all seven games they've played.
The problem is that they've won only two of them and enter tonight's game against the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm in need of a win.
"This is a must-win," Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "A must-win because we're looking at going up to Minnesota for another tough game [on Saturday]. Minnesota is no joke either."
Adubato would love to come out of the weekend with a pair of wins and some much needed momentum heading into a week-long break. Following Saturday's game at Minnesota, the Mystics won't play again until Saturday, June 18, at Indiana. Much of yesterday's practice was devoted to working on the kind of end-of-game situations that have been problematic this season. Two of Washington's losses have come by three points or less.
"What's been happening is that people have hit big shots on us, or we have been turning the ball over or, and I hate to cry, we have been getting some unlucky calls at the end," Adubato said. "We just have to get to the point where we're executing down the stretch of these games."
The good news for the Mystics is that second-year guard Alana Beard is getting back in the groove after missing all of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Beard scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds during Tuesday's 71-62 loss at San Antonio and is looking more comfortable with each passing day.
A healthy Beard gives the Mystics a reliable late-game scoring option, the kind of player who can create her own shot from anywhere on the court regardless of what play is called. Beard scored all 16 of her points during the second half Tuesday night and helped the Mystics take a one-point lead with just under three minutes left.
"The Alana Beard we saw in the second half the other night is the player we were expecting to see all season," Adubato said. "She's coming around."
Seattle (5-2) will be playing without guard Sue Bird, who broke two bones in her face when she was elbowed by teammate Lauren Jackson during Tuesday's 81-69 loss to Connecticut. Bird had played with a broken nose throughout last year's playoffs and was a major reason why Seattle went on to win the WNBA championship.
Seattle still has one of the game's best players in Jackson, who is seventh in the WNBA in scoring at 16.7 points per game and also leads the league with 24 offensive rebounds. The Storm went into Detroit Wednesday night without Bird and emerged with an impressive 76-61 win over the previously undefeated Shock. Seattle has won five of its last six.
Mystics Notes: The Mystics will host their annual Breast Cancer Health Awareness Night tonight. The first 5,000 fans to enter MCI Center will receive a pink floppy hat to celebrate the event. Also, the game will feature "Survivor Island,"a section with reserved seats for breast cancer survivors. A portion of the receipts from that section will be donated to a breast cancer institution in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Survivors attending the game are encouraged to wear pink clothing.