The Washington Mystics began the second half of their season in much the same fashion as they concluded the first: playing from behind for most of the game and getting in contention down the stretch despite myriad mistakes before losing, this time to the Indiana Fever, 80-77, on Wednesday night in front of an announced 7,096 at Verizon Center.
Trailing by 15 late in the first half, the Mystics used one of their strongest third quarters of the season to get within two possessions heading into the final period. Washington trimmed the deficit to 78-76 with 16 seconds left on center Kia Vaughn’s jump hook from eight feet.
Indiana made 1 of 2 foul shots with 10 seconds to play, and after Mystics point guard Ivory Latta missed a three-pointer, teammate Emma Meesseman was fouled going for the rebound. The Mystics’ second-year forward made the first free throw and missed the second on purpose, but Washington failed to gather the offensive rebound for a putback that would have tied the game.
Fever center Erlana Larkins made 1 of 2 foul shots, and Monique Currie’s desperation heave from half court missed as the buzzer sounded on the Mystics’ sixth loss in eight games and ninth in their past 12. The loss was all the more frustrating given Washington does not play at home again until July 23, following a season-high five-game road trip and the all-star break.
“I just think we need to find a way to put two halves together,” Currie said. “At halftime we realize we’re not playing as hard as we think we are. We’re letting teams come into our place and play harder than us, play more aggressive than us, but I think in the third quarter we really came out more aggressive. We were making good decisions.”
The Mystics (7-11) had all their starters score at least 11 points, with Currie’s 18 leading the team. Washington’s longest-tenured player has scored 36 points over her past two games while shooting 13 for 26. Meesseman and Vaughn each added 13 for Washington, which continues to struggle mightily from beyond the arc.
The Mystics are shooting 12 percent (6 for 47) on three-pointers over the past three games. They missed 15 of 17 against the Fever (8-9), which leaped ahead of Washington into fourth place in the Eastern Conference in the chase for the final playoff spot.
Rookie forward Natasha Howard led Indiana with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting with four rebounds and three steals. Larkins had 16 points and seven rebounds, and reserve center Lynetta Kizer (Maryland) scored all 10 of her points in the second quarter.
“We played a good second half,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. “We played poorly in some areas defensively. I give Indiana credit. Their posts have not shot the ball well in a month from anywhere outside 10 feet, and you have three of their posts get 46 points.”