With less than 10 seconds remaining on the scoreboard clock at the Washington Mystics’ practice floor inside Verizon Center Thursday afternoon, center Ashley Robinson caught a pass at the free throw line. With little hesitation she found veteran Michelle Snow for an easy reverse layin, prompting forward Noelle Quinn to raise her hands in the air with relief as Coach Trudi Lacey clapped her hands and shouted “Yeah!”
If only it were that easy for the Mystics during real games.
Washington enters Friday night’s home game against the New York Liberty riding a three-game losing streak, and all three losses have been the result of the Mystics’ inability to finish off close games.
It all began on May 30 when Washington rallied from a 24-point deficit to take a two-point lead in the fourth quarter against defending WNBA champion Minnesota only to watch guard Lindsay Whalen hit a game-winning putback with one second left on the game clock.
Two nights later at Chicago, Washington led by eight points with three minutes to go before a series of turnovers allowed Chicago forward Sylvia Fowles to hit a game-winning shot just before the final buzzer sounded. Then, last Sunday, Washington trailed by just three points with two minutes left against Connecticut, but ended up losing by eight points when the turnover bug hit once again.
It’s for that reason Lacey’s drills and post-practice huddles this week have revolved around developing a certain mental fortitude and her belief that “winning is a habit.”
“We’re still figuring it out . . . but I think we’re very confident that if we’re in that situation again, we’ll close it out,” Lacey added.
Part of the problem is that the combination of working in eight new players to the roster and an early-season schedule with long gaps between games has left the Mystics still searching for a go-to player down the stretch of games.
Lacey said her late-game play calls are done on feel, such as who’s playing well at that moment in time. But her players are starting to realize a star must emerge to solve an issue that has confounded players and coaches since last season, when the Mystics stumbled to a 6-28 record.
“There has to be somebody you can count on, that you know is gonna get you a basket at the end of the game and that’s something you figure out along the way,” team captain Monique Currie said. “I feel good about who we have here and what we have here, but at the end of the day it’s about wins and we need to start winning for all this talk to be worth something.”