DeLisha Milton-Jones and Mactabene Amachree were going through a one-on-one drill yesterday when Coach Richie Adubato noticed a minor fundamental flaw in the way Milton-Jones was executing one of her post moves.
"De, when you square up, keep the ball in front of you instead of over there on your hip," Adubato advised. "That way you can either go right up into your jump shot or you can pump fake and go around her."
With that, Milton-Jones adjusted the ball, rose up and made a jumper before Amachree could react. There are millions of such teaching moments during a long basketball season, but the Mystics hope that just a week's worth of them will pay off starting with tonight's game at MCI Center against the Indiana Fever.
The Mystics (3-6) have not played since suffering a 78-60 loss at Minnesota last Saturday. After taking Sunday off, the Mystics practiced for three and a half hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, took extra time each day to go through individual drills and poured over game tape to pinpoint ways to be more efficient in their half-court offense and more stingy in their team defense.
"From a team standpoint, the week was very valuable because we really needed the time to work on some things," said second-year guard Alana Beard, who used the week to continue recovering from ankle and hamstring injuries that forced her to miss the preseason and the first four regular season games. "Because we'd had so many people in and out of the lineup, we've still been looking to get some continuity and chemistry. We really didn't have a chance to do that until this week."
The Mystics are in fifth place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference and are still seeking their first two-game winning streak. Indiana (7-3) is coming off back-to-back wins over Detroit and Charlotte and is 5-0 against the Eastern Conference.
The Fever is led by Tamika Catchings, Tan White and Kelly Miller, the twin sister of Mystics guard Coco Miller. Adubato's biggest concern entering tonight's game is his team's defense. Washington opponents are shooting 45 percent and averaging 67.2 points.
Only San Antonio, Houston and Charlotte are allowing opponents a better shooting percentage than the Mystics.
"The defense has to improve," Adubato said. "We spent a lot of time this week working with our big people on defending inside, doing a better job of denying the basketball and then we've got to get our guards to prevent penetration in the middle of the paint. Those are two areas that have hurt us."
Mystics Notes: Beard is the second-leading vote getter among Eastern Conference guards for the July 9 WNBA All-Star Game in Connecticut. Beard ranks just behind New York's Becky Hammon and just ahead of Connecticut's Lindsay Whalen.
Washington's Chasity Melvin ranks fourth among Eastern Conference centers. Fan voting, which will determine the All-Star Game's starters, continues through June 23.
Reserves will be selected by the league's head coaches.