During the final minutes that Mystics guard Alana Beard played in a 66-55 preseason win Thursday over the Chicago Sky, she missed an open jump shot from the top of the key and, on a later possession, got caught with no appealing option as the shot clock expired.
“We’ve had ugly games, but that’s expected,” said Beard, who was sporting three stitches under her left eye as a result of an elbow to the face she took Wednesday during a 60-57 win at New York. “At the same time we’ve worked our way through tough situations, and to be at that point so early in the season, I think that’s sort of positive for us.
“But a long, long way to go in terms of knowing each other and sort of putting together a better defensive stand for 40 minutes and not just for 20 minutes.”
Indeed, the first item Washington Coach Trudi Lacey mentioned was defense when asked after the game what areas her team would focus on in anticipation of its June 4 regular season opener at Connecticut.
Chicago shot 53.3 percent from the field and made 3 of 6 three-pointers while tallying 19 points in the first quarter.
“There are times we have periods in games where we’re a little soft,” Lacey said. “We allow the other team to really run their offense and [are] not really focusing on taking them out of stuff. There should not be a lull for us defensively, whether we sub or not. We have to keep our defensive intensity for the entire game.”
The Sky shot 30.6 percent from the field during the final three quarters and registered 22 points in the second half.
Washington registered 12 steals and forced 21 turnovers against Chicago.
“Everybody just buckled down and focused on their assignments and what they needed to do,” wing player Marissa Coleman said. “Getting through screens instead of running into them and using it as an excuse. Just knowing that we need our defense to spark our offense.”
Lacey, who is beginning her first season at the Mystics’ helm, has made defensive effort a high priority, and Washington may well have to rely on that while its offense works out a few kinks. The Mystics tallied 20 turnovers Thursday, and several key players saw their offensive struggles continue.
Beard has shot 1 for 15 from the field during the preseason. She is returning to competitive action after missing all of last season with an ankle tendon injury. Beard insisted that her ankle felt fine, and Lacey said she is not concerned with Beard’s early offensive woes.
Coleman, too, has gotten off to a cold start, having shot 2 for 10 during two preseason contests. But the Mystics have received solid contributions from recent additions Kelly Miller and Nicky Anosike, as well as last season’s leading scorer, Crystal Langhorne.
“No one is there yet, you know what I mean?” Beard said. “And when we get there, I think it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”