Sun 81, Mystics 47
-- The Washington Mystics were playing for their season. The Connecticut Sun, already ensured of a playoff spot and the best record in the WNBA's Eastern Conference, was playing for home-court advantage throughout the WNBA playoffs.
On this night, motivation didn't matter.
Looking every bit like the best team in the WNBA, the Sun used a 20-2 first-half run to blow open a close game and went on to eliminate the Mystics from playoff contention with an 81-47 victory in front of 9,341 at Mohegan Sun Arena. In suffering their worst loss of the season, the Mystics (15-18) finished with a season low in points, shot a season-low 29.2 percent and spent the final minutes watching Connecticut's seldom-used reserves throw up shots in garbage time.
The loss, combined with Detroit's victory over Indiana on Thursday, means Detroit owns the fourth and final seed in the East and will host Connecticut when the first round opens Wednesday. Washington, which is ensured of finishing with a losing record for the sixth time in eight seasons of existence, will close the season Saturday against Detroit at MCI Center in a matchup that suddenly lacks real meaning.
Even though a win today would draw Washington into a tie with Detroit (16-17), the Shock would still advance to the playoffs based on its superior record in conference play.
"This was one of those games where you don't know where to begin to look," Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "They had one of those nights where they made everything and this was the worst game we played all year."
Washington's season essentially ended with 8 minutes 10 seconds remaining in the first half. With the score tied at 20, rookie point guard Temeka Johnson picked up her third foul while battling for defensive position against Connecticut's 6-foot-1 Brooke Wyckoff. Fearing that his primary ballhandler would pick up another foul, Adubato pulled Johnson.
The Sun (25-8) promptly seized control with a run that was sparked by point guard Lindsay Whalen, who got the crowd into the game by making a tough fadeaway jumper and then following it up with a three-pointer that gave Connecticut a 27-22 lead. Washington's next four offensive possessions included a turnover, a Chasity Melvin layup attempt that was swatted away by 7-2 center Margo Dydek, a trip that featured point-blank misses by Coco Miller and Alana Beard and a DeLisha Milton-Jones shot attempt that was blocked by Dydek, who finished with three blocks and 11 rebounds.
"She changes everything when she's out there," Beard said of Dydek, who missed two previous games against the Mystics because she was playing with the Polish national team. "She doesn't allow you to play your regular game because even when she's not blocking shots, she's making you change the way you shoot."
By halftime, the Mystics were shooting 25.7 percent, trailed 42-24 and looked shellshocked. Things didn't improve in the second. The Mystics continued to play hard but were shaken by what happened in the first half and never threatened to make it a game.
Beard, who made 3 of 18 shots in Tuesday's victory over New York, had another rough shooting night. Beard missed five of her first six shots and finished with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. Melvin, who scored a season-high 30 points against New York, missed her first five shots and finished with six points on 2-of-13 shooting. The Mystics made only 2 of 14 three-point attempts and totaled eight assists.
"We stopped making shots and then they made us pay on the other end," Melvin said. "It seemed like everything they put up went in. All net. Not backboard and then net. All net every time. It seemed like our basket had a lid on it. But you know what, if we had picked things up earlier in the season, we wouldn't have been in this position."