The Washington Post

Mystics vs. Storm: Sue Bird, free throws are too much for Washington

Seattle guard Tanisha Wright, right, tries to break through Washington defenders Matee Ajavon, left, and Ashley Robinson during the Storm’s 72-55 home victory on Sunday. Seattle beat the Mystics again, 79-71, on Tuesday night in Washington. (Bettina Hansen/Associated Press)

The Washington Mystics’ unpleasant June continued on Tuesday night in a 79-71 loss to the Seattle Storm at Verizon Center that kept them entrenched at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and owners of the second-worst record in the WNBA.

Franchise forward Crystal Langhorne produced her typical all-around performance with a team-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting and a game-high 10 rebounds, and the bench contributed 34 points to help erase a 14-point deficit in the first half. Those superlatives, though, were not enough to keep the Mystics from losing their fourth game in a row and seventh of eight this month.

The most glaring disparity came at the free throw line, where the Mystics went 17 of 24 while Seattle made 30 of 39. That lopsided advantage, plus a first quarter in which Washington (2-9) managed a season-low 10 points, allowed the Storm to win for the fifth consecutive time despite getting outrebounded 32-26, including 10-5 offensively, and making three fewer field goals.

“We didn’t start off well,” Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. “But to our credit we fought, came back. It was tough. We were really attacking the basket, and I thought that there were times we should have been at the line. Any time a team scores 30 points off the free throw line, that’s tough.”

Guard Sue Bird scored a game-high 25 points with three assists, three rebounds and two steals for Seattle (6-7) and was particularly effective down the stretch. Center Ann Wauters added 14 points and seven rebounds.

After the Mystics rallied to tie at 42 midway through the third quarter, the Storm embarked on an 11-2 run that began with Wauters’s three-pointer and included a three-point play from guard Tanisha Wright.

Reserve Monique Currie (15 points) sank a three-pointer to open the scoring in the fourth, and the Mystics had whittled the margin to 55-50. Washington remained within five points following Langhorne’s three-point play off a nifty pass from center Michelle Snow moments later.

Seattle got a three-pointer from guard Katie Smith to go ahead by eight, and expanded the lead to 66-56 with just over four minutes to play when Bird converted a jumper and Shekinna Stricklen sank a pair of foul shots.

The Mystics stayed within reach thanks to four consecutive points to get to 66-60 with 1 minutes 56 seconds remaining before Bird all but secured the outcome by scoring the next six points in a row and eight of Seattle’s ensuing nine.

Bird curled around a screen and made a jumper to stretch the advantage to 68-60 and swished an off-balance jumper from the left side with the shot clock about to expire for an eight-point cushion. The 10-year veteran made two free throws to get the lead to nine points with 49 seconds to play, and Washington thereafter did not get closer than six.

“We have to get stops and take care of the ball,” Langhorne said. “Maybe we wouldn’t get a stop and then turn it over, and then it goes from two points to six points or something. We just have to execute at certain points in the game and realize how important every possession is.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.



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