For the Washington Mystics, there was little left to do Friday night after the final horn sounded but remain on the Verizon Center court and hope that their eyes and ears had misled them.
It looked as if Indiana guard Shannon Bobbitt, who had beaten Mystics guard Kelly Miller off the dribble and fooled forward Crystal Langhorne with a ball fake, had released a floater that bounced off the backboard and through the net before the buzzer sounded. But the referees were huddling around a monitor at midcourt, so maybe . . .
No. The Mystics weren’t imagining things. They’d lost again, this time at the very end, in the cruelest of fashions. Bobbitt’s last-second shot had, in fact, left her fingers before the game clock ran out; Indiana had, in fact, won, 61-59.
Washington (3-14) created ample opportunities with its pressure defense and came within 13 seconds of forcing overtime against the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. But for all the times Indiana (13-6) turned the ball over, for all the chances the Mystics had to score short-range baskets . . .
No. The Mystics still haven’t developed the offensive chemistry and court awareness to capitalize on enough of their opponents’ mistakes. Washington shot 34.3 percent from the field and made 3 of 15 three-point attempts. The Mystics owned a sizable edge in offensive rebounds (18-5), yet tallied just 11 second-chance points.
“Offensively, we’re just trying to find our way,” Washington Coach Trudi Lacey said. “We’re just really simplifying things. It’s just a matter of us making plays and hitting shots at the end of games. We’ve been in every game. We’ve just got to finish games.”
In their three previous contests, the Mystics had tied or led entering the fourth quarter only to lose the game.
On Friday, Washington’s second-half surge continued into the fourth quarter. Sparked by Langhorne and guard Matee Ajavon — who combined to score 26 of the Mystics’ 28 second-half points — Washington overcame a nine-point deficit and took its first lead of the game with 6 minutes 27 seconds remaining.
“I think we were more conscious,” said Ajavon, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “We knew that the fourth quarter is what we’d been slacking at these past few games. We just tried to get stops.”
They got every stop they needed until Indiana came out of a timeout with the game tied and 13 seconds remaining. Ajavon said the plan was to make sure Fever forward Tamika Catchings — who had scored 16 points — did not touch the ball. In fact, Ajavon noted, “we had the ball in the person’s hands that we wanted it in.”
That person was Bobbitt, who had not attempted a shot all night. Bobbitt got past Miller, her initial defender, and advanced toward Langhorne. Washington had a foul to give, though Langhorne said she didn’t remember that at the time.
Langhorne said she didn’t think Bobbitt would take the shot. But Bobbitt did, and her lone basket of the game sealed for Washington a familiar ending.
“It’s all a learning [process] for us,” Lacey said. “You know, we’re just so, so close. Any day now. Any day now. . . .”
Her voice trailed off.