With the youthful Washington Mystics searching for an identity early in the season, Coach Mike Thibault has been preaching defense as the fallback for balky shooting and disjointed possessions. His players were unable to execute that blueprint in the second half Saturday night against the Seattle Storm, and the result was a 73-65 loss in front of 5,847 at Verizon Center.
The Mystics (1-2) remained winless at home in their second game in as many nights and allowed their previously winless opponent to shoot 56 percent in the second half. Falling behind by 11 with less than five minutes left in regulation, Washington got within 64-60 via a 7-0 burst, but point guard Ivory Latta shortly thereafter missed a layup that would have whittled the margin to one possession.
Seattle (1-3), also playing the second of back-to-back games, sealed the victory with guard Sue Bird’s three-pointer from the left wing followed by guard Tanisha Wright’s field goal that produced a nine-point spread with 38 seconds to play.
“The first half was really ugly both ways,” Thibault said. “The second half stayed ugly for us other than a few minutes, and I thought that the more desperate team body language-wise won the game. We’re coming off a win. They’re coming off consecutive losses. They came out and played with a little more desperation. I think their veteran leaders were good. They shot the ball much better in the second half.”
Emma Meesseman led Washington with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and five rebounds. Ten of those points came in the first quarter until Seattle began to double-team the Serbian forward more frequently. Apart from Meesseman, the Mystics shot 18 of 56 (32 percent) from the field, including missing 11 of 14 from three-point range.
Starting small forward Monique Currie (six points) continued her ragged start with a third consecutive game scoring in single digits. The nine-year veteran is shooting 22 percent in three games after averaging 40 percent shooting and 11 points per game over her career.
Currie missed both her three-point attempts against the Storm, including an uncontested attempt in the second half.
“I think we got some really good looks at the basket,” said Currie, the longest-tenured member of the Mystics. “I think as a group we’ve got to shoot better. I know I need to shoot much better, but then we need to get second-chance opportunities. We didn’t offensive rebound very well.”
Washington managed only six of those and finished on the short end in overall rebounding, 32-30. Seattle, meanwhile, got a game-high 14 rebounds from Crystal Langhorne in her return to Verizon Center. The Storm forward spent the first six years of her career with the Mystics until being traded on WNBA draft night in exchange for Tianna Hawkins and the No. 7 pick, which Washington used on Bria Hartley.
Bird led Seattle with a game-high 16 points and five assists while committing one turnover. Forward Camille Little added 15 points for the Storm, which also got 14 points, three assists and two steals from Wright. Seattle went 16 for 16 from the foul line, shot 43 percent overall and made 7 of 20 from three-point range.
“It’s great to win,” said Langhorne, who helped Maryland win the NCAA title in 2006. “Of course I want it more against my old team, but we were looking for our first win. Every night we’re going to fight hard.”
● LYNX 87, LIBERTY 82: Maya Moore scored 30 points on a record-setting night as defending league champion Minnesota (4-0) won at home. Moore became the first player ever to score at least 30 points in four straight games.
After scoring a career-high 38 in a win at Tulsa on Friday, Moore is averaging a league-best 33.8 points per game.
Tina Charles paced New York (1-2) with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
● SKY 87, DREAM 73: In Rosemont, Ill., Elena Delle Donne scored 27 points as Chicago (4-0) continued the best start in the franchise’s nine WNBA seasons.
Erika DeSouza led Atlanta (2-1) with 18 points and 12 rebounds.