Mystics 88, Fever 78

After Charlotte Smith-Taylor bricked a pair of free throws that could have wrapped up a victory at the end of the first overtime period last night, only one thought entered her mind.

"I blew it," Smith-Taylor said of her failure to break a 73-73 tie. "We had a chance to win and I blew it. That's what I was thinking."

It's a good thing for the Mystics that Smith-Taylor knows how to let things go, because it was her back-to-back three-pointers at the start of the second overtime period that propelled the Mystics to an 88-78 victory over the Indiana Fever in front of 9,311 at MCI Center.

Smith-Taylor is a seven-year WNBA veteran and her game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer for North Carolina in the 1994 NCAA championship game is one of the most famous shots in women's college basketball, so perhaps she is ideally equipped to bounce back from disappointment. It doesn't hurt that her teammates have faith in her.

On Washington's third possession of the second overtime, rookie point guard Temeka Johnson dribbled to her right, drew a pair of defenders and quickly passed to an open Smith-Taylor, who had drifted to the top of the key.

"It's a safe bet," Johnson said of Smith-Taylor, who entered the game having made 12 of 21 three-point attempts this season. "If she's that open, it's going in."

This one did, and after Indiana's Tamika Catchings was called for an offensive foul on the other end, Smith-Taylor made another three-pointer -- this one from the wing -- to give the Mystics a 79-73 lead. After an Indiana miss, Johnson swished a long jumper from in front of the Fever bench and the Mystics finally had some separation in a game that had been tight throughout.

The game was tied 12 times, featured eight lead changes and did cruel things to the emotions of the Mystics' fired-up fans, most of whom spent the overtime periods standing, cheering and screaming at the referees. Despite shooting a crisp 49.2 percent, making 8 of 20 three-pointers and forcing 22 turnovers, the Mystics found themselves in a dogfight because they made only 22 of 35 free throws and were outrebounded 43-28.

Aside from Smith-Taylor's notable misses, the Mystics missed several free throws down the stretch in regulation and also lost a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when DeLisha Milton-Jones's desperation heave rattled in and out as the buzzer sounded.

"I guess this was an example of us having to do things the hard way," Johnson said.

Not many things have looked hard for Johnson, the 5-foot-3 rookie whom the Mystics took with the sixth overall pick out of LSU. Johnson leads the WNBA in assists and outplayed fellow rookie sensation Tan White of the Fever. White scored 17 points and hit some big shots, but Johnson scored a career-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting, had seven assists, grabbed six rebounds and played terrific defense on Indiana's Kelly Miller most of the night. Johnson even had an inspirational moment when she returned to the game after spraining her left wrist early in the first overtime.

Alana Beard added 18 points and hit 4 of 7 three-pointers and Chasity Melvin scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 46 minutes for the Mystics.

Indiana, which had won three straight games but was in the midst of three games in four nights, benefited from Catchings's big night. She scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds in 45 minutes.

Fever's Tan White tries to get past Mystics' Chasity Melvin (14 points, 10 rebounds) during the second half.