- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2001

SPARKS 62, MYSTICS 50

No wonder the Washington Mystics have the worst record in the WNBA. With the game on the line, even their veterans don't know the plays.

Because of this, the first-place Los Angeles Sparks were able to escape MCI Center with a 62-50 victory yesterday against a Washington team that gave them a run.

Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie led all scorers and rebounders with 18 points and 12 rebounds. She also had five blocks. Three other Sparks scored in double-digits.

Mystics guard Helen Luz scored 14 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the first half that brought Washington (5-13) within five points. Teammate Murriel Page had 13 points and nine rebounds.

"We could have made it interesting, but we ran out of time," Mystics coach Tom Maher said. "Nevertheless, the better team won."

Maybe Los Angeles (17-3) was the better team because its All-Stars knew the playbook while one of Washington's showed that she does not.

With 2:06 left in the game and the Mystics trailing by eight points, Washington guard Nikki McCray took an inbound pass on the left side of the floor at midcourt.

The designed play called for her to hustle to the right side and look to pass or shoot anything to cut the Sparks' lead to at least six as quickly as possible.

McCray, though, did not follow the play. Instead, as Maher screamed from the sideline for her to move, the All-Star wasted nearly 15 valuable seconds standing at halfcourt waiting for her teammates to react.

No points came from that confused possession, nor the next in which McCray wasted almost 10 seconds attempting to set up a play instead of trying for a quick shot.

"It was not a good decision," said Maher, who took McCray out of the game with 1:02 left. "I mean, her heart was in the right place."

Her head, though, definitely was not. McCray even denied being on the floor during those two plays although the official game log shows she entered with 8:25 remaining and was not taken out until 1:02.

"I wasn't in," McCray said. "That wasn't me. I came out. I promise."

McCray's mistakes capped a horrible performance in which she went 1-for-9 shooting, scored three points and committed three turnovers in 21 minutes. Her next appearance in a game will be tomorrow in Orlando, Fla., when she starts for the Eastern Conference in the WNBA All-Star Game.

The letdown at the end spoiled a spirited game by the Mystics, who did not cower from the bigger and quicker Sparks.

"We didn't back down, which I think L.A. thought we were going to since we're not playing so well and we don't have [injured All-Star forward] Chamique [Holdsclaw]," said Mystics center Vicky Bullett, who had six points and nine rebounds. "They thought they could probably come in and just blow us out by 30 [points], but we made them work hard."

The Mystics used a strong zone defense to hold Los Angeles to just 37.9 percent shooting from the floor, but could not match the effort on the other end. Washington's field goal percentage was a dismal 29 percent.

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