Mystics 64, Storm 52

Richie Adubato's face matched the red silk handkerchief in his suit jacket as he pounded his right fist into the soft pad protecting the scorer's table. A non-call by referee Lisa Mattingly triggered this particular outburst by the Mystics coach, but in reality it could have been anything.

After a 2-5 start, Adubato and the Mystics came into last night's game against the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm with a sense of desperation surrounding their every movement. In a game Adubato labeled a "must win," the Mystics played some of their most inspired basketball of the young season and emerged with a 64-52 victory in front of 10,024 at MCI Center.

Four Mystics reached double figures in scoring, led by guard Alana Beard, who scored 16 points in 37 minutes. Excellent team defense helped force the Storm into a season-high 20 turnovers, and four Mystics combined to block seven shots. The Mystics closed the game with a 10-3 run.

Seattle was playing its second straight game without point guard Sue Bird, who suffered a fractured orbital bone after colliding with teammate Lauren Jackson in a loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night. Jackson and guard Betty Lennox each scored 18 points to lead the Storm, but no other Seattle player scored more than eight.

"I'm just happy that when I wake up [today] for that six o'clock flight to Minnesota, I'll be smiling," said forward Charlotte Smith-Taylor, who scored 11 points and hit all three of her three-point attempts, including a crucial one that gave Washington a 55-48 lead with 2 minutes 44 seconds remaining. "Tonight we wanted to concentrate on executing in the final two minutes and doing the things we need to do to get a win. We really needed this."

Following tonight's game at Minnesota, the Mystics won't play again until next Saturday, when they host Indiana. For that reason, Adubato felt it was critical for his team to win at home and build some confidence. The Mystics have been in every game this season and lost two of them by three points or less.

"Psychologically this was very important for us," Adubato said. "We've now had two straight close games . . . and we've been able to execute and pull them out. Now, you're hoping that we can turn that thought process the other way, where they think, 'Okay, if we execute we can win.' "

Last night's game provided signs that the Mystics are starting to find a groove with one another. During one sequence, Smith-Taylor drove along the baseline and had an angle for a layup but instead passed the ball to a wide-open Beard, who made a three-pointer from the corner to give the Mystics a 38-30 lead.

As the game flowed into crunch time, Smith-Taylor hit that crucial three-pointer to make it 55-48. Moments later, Smith-Taylor had the ball at the top of the key and appeared ready to try another three-pointer. As she rose into her shot, Smith-Taylor spotted a wide-open Chasity Melvin underneath the basket and snapped off a perfect pass to Melvin, who made the layup to give the Mystics a 57-48 lead.

"I think we're all getting comfortable with each other and learning how we need to play to get these close wins," said rookie point guard Temeka Johnson, who had 10 points and five assists. "That just goes to the competitive nature of this team. Now, we need to keep playing hard, get back to .500 and keep it going into the rest of the season."

Alana Beard, right, Nakia Sanford, left, and Delisha Milton-Jones team up on Seattle's Janell Burse as the Mystics beat the defending WNBA champion.