The Washington Mystics spent most of Thursday night trying to atone for yet another slow start. Methodically, they trimmed their deficit from 17 points to 12 to six to three. For a few moments, they even took a one-point lead.
But in the closing minutes of a 79-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun before 7,028 at Verizon Center that dropped the Mystics to 1-3 on the season, the same deficiencies that forced them into a sizable early hole ensured they would not complete their comeback attempt.
The Mystics have trailed at halftime in each of their four games and have trailed by 12 points after the first quarter in both of their past two contests.
“We just really need to pick it up,” said forward Crystal Langhorne, who finished with nine points, six rebounds and five turnovers.
“We’re just really sluggish in the beginning, and it’s not looking good.”
After Thursday’s loss, Coach Trudi Lacey said the team explicitly discussed beginning the game with invigorated defensive intensity and avoiding careless turnovers. By the time the first quarter ended, Washington had turned the ball over five times and given up 23 points.
The two components, Lacey and players said, are very much related. The turnovers led to fast-break opportunities for Connecticut, which used those situations to get center Tina Charles into an early groove. She scored seven of her 26 points — she also finished with 10 rebounds — in the first quarter.
“Just silly stuff, silly stuff that’s so correctable,” said center Nicky Anosike, who tallied 10 points and 13 rebounds. “We can sit here and talk about it after every game, but at some point we have to change it.”
So far, they haven’t. Washington trailed Chicago 25-13 after the first quarter on Saturday and, despite a frenzied second-half comeback attempt, ended up falling, 84-77.
The Mystics executed a very similar pattern Thursday. Behind the three-point shooting of guards Kelly Miller and Matee Ajavon — who combined to make 6 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc — as well as increasingly aggressive play from Anosike as the game progressed, Washington chipped away at Connecticut’s lead until it was no more. After committing 10 turnovers in the first half, the Mystics had just four in the second.
“We can’t fight our way back from 15, 10 points [down],” Langhorne said. “You can’t do that. It takes so much energy to always come back.”
With just less than six minutes to play, Anosike made a jumper to provide the Mystics a 65-64 advantage, their only lead of the night. Thirty-one seconds later, Charles scored a put-back layup to nudge the Sun (3-1) ahead for good.
And for the remainder of the game, one final truth became evident: When Connecticut needed to make a defensive stop, it did. The same could not be said for a Washington squad that allowed Charles and Sun guard Renee Montgomery to combine for 49 points. Connecticut outscored the Mystics 38-18 in the paint.
Afterward, those in the losing locker room spoke about changing mind-sets, a sentiment that has been voiced before.
“We just have to understand that this route that we’re taking isn’t working for us,” Anosike said.
“So it’s either change it, or keep losing.”