Mystics 73, Silver Stars 58
Alana Beard saw it coming. The inbound pass to San Antonio Silver Stars forward Shyra Ely came slow and predictable, and Beard cut in front, ripped the ball from Ely's grasp and converted on the other end with a layup.
It was the kind of play the Washington Mystics needed to stop their skid at MCI Center and the type of play Beard repeatedly offered last night, recording seven steals, tying her career high and coming one shy of the franchise record as the Mystics beat the Silver Stars, 73-58.
"It was an Alana Beard show tonight," said Mystics Coach Richie Adubato. "Our goal is to get 10 steals a game, that's the entire team. So if someone gets seven, that's a phenomenal show."
Beard, who sat out two practices this week with recurring ankle injuries, displayed an astounding amount of defensive energy. On offense, she scored a game- and season-high 27 points, tying her career best.
"My intensity level and my mindset was at a different level tonight," Beard said. "That's where I've been trying to get to the entire season and I finally made it."
The Mystics (12-11) entered the game an unimpressive 5-6 at home. But the Silver Stars (6-18), owners of the second worst record in the WNBA, were without their leading scorer, Marie Ferdinand, and a healthy LaToya Thomas, who played in her second game after returning from a torn right labrum. The Mystics took advantage, playing inspired defense with 14 steals and holding San Antonio under 70 points, which it has surpassed just once since June 30.
"I thought we were going to play without Charlotte Smith and maybe DeLisha Milton tonight but we were at full strength and they weren't," said Adubato. "Sometimes you get breaks that way. It was a definite break."
The Mystics struggled at the start against the tall San Antonio front court of 6-foot-8 center Katie Feenstra and 6-7 forward Chantelle Anderson, unable to land offensive rebounds. The Mystics, whose tallest player is 6-4, also struggled against the pair June 7 in a 71-62 loss. The two went 9 of 14 from the field for 18 points in that game, but combined for 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting last night.
Instead of focusing their attack on the inside, Beard and the Mystics stayed outside and scored in transition. Beard made a three-pointer from the left side and then a steal at the top of the arc and layup on the other end for a 21-12 lead. San Antonio responded with a timeout.
Washington took a 37-29 lead into halftime after a quick turnaround move by Kaayla Chones from the left block.
The Mystics turned the game into a rout in the second half thanks to Beard sparking a 29-9 run.
Notes: Mystics guard Temeka Johnson scored eight points in the win after going scoreless against Houston on Tuesday. . . .
The play of the game may have been Mystics forward Murriel Page's block on Ely. Page sent the ball down the walkway leading to the locker room and briefly followed it, screaming. She was met by Beard with a chest bump on the way back to the court.
Sales Leads Sun
Nykesha Sales scored 10 of her 21 points in the first nine minutes of the second half to help Connecticut rally from its biggest deficit of the season and beat visiting New York, 73-70, last night.
Sales also finished with five steals as the Sun (18-5) rebounded from a 10-point halftime deficit. Connecticut remains perfect at home this season (10-0) and has won 15 straight at Mohegan Sun Arena dating to last season.
Ann Wauters had 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Liberty (11-11).
Alana Beard, center, is fouled by San Antonio's Shyra Ely, left, and Bernadette Ngoyisa. Beard scored a season-high 27 points, matching her career best.