More than a month had passed since the Washington Mystics lost a game by more than seven points. Even during this season of consistent struggle, their recent consolation had been that they remained competitive.
But Thursday night at Verizon Center, the Mystics suffered their worst defeat of the 2011 campaign, falling to Minnesota, 81-62.
It should be noted that the Lynx own the WNBA’s best record (19-6) and sent four players to this year’s All-Star Game. However, that did little to soften the blow of a 19-point loss, Washington’s fourth in its past five contests.
“This was a disappointing loss from the standpoint of I didn’t feel like that we competed, especially on the defensive end,” Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. “All season long we have fought and improved, especially defensively. We just didn’t do it tonight.”
Washington (5-18) led by one at the end of the first quarter, though the foundation for the team’s latest loss had been laid. Wing player Marissa Coleman, whose primary defensive assignment was to guard all-star rookie forward Maya Moore, and forward Crystal Langhorne — the Mystics’ lone all-star this season — already had amassed two personal fouls each.
By halftime, Washington trailed by 10.
The Mystics recorded seven turnovers, were outrebounded 12-4 and gave up 10 second-chance points and 10 fast-break points in the second quarter. Their plight only grew bleaker from that point forward.
“You can’t give a team that’s so talented easy baskets,” Langhorne said. “Anybody knows you get easy baskets, then everything starts going in.”
On the night, Minnesota shot 57.1 percent from the field and scored just more than half its points either on fast breaks or on second-chance opportunities.
Moore finished with 14 points, but the Lynx put on a balanced offensive demonstration that included 18 points from guard Seimone Augustus, 13 points from forward Rebekkah Brunson and 11 points from guard Lindsay Whalen.
“They’ve got [talented] people coming off the bench too,” Langhorne noted.
The Mystics, meantime, struggled to initiate their half-court offense, a source of persistent consternation this summer. Lacey said the team’s point guards “are not getting us into our offense soon enough.” Consequently, she said, Washington is passing up open looks early in the shot clock and then forcing up bad shots as the shot clock runs down.
Guard Matee Ajavon led the Mystics with 15 points, though it took her 19 field goal attempts to reach that total.
Langhorne — who entered the night averaging 18.9 points and 35 minutes per game — tallied 11 points in 25 minutes Thursday. She finished with five personal fouls, which limited her court time and production.
Against a team with superior talent, Washington could not afford to be without one of its only consistent sources of firepower, even if admitting as much was difficult to do in the immediate aftermath.
“That’s how it’s been all season,” said Coleman, who finished with 12 points. “We’ve competed with every team that we’ve played against, so I don’t think they’re any different.”