- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

It took the Washington Mystics 20 minutes to figure out they were playing without Chamique Holdsclaw. By then, it was too late.

The Mystics scored a franchise record-low 14 first-half points, spoiling their home opener as the Cleveland Rockers handed Washington its third straight defeat 63-53 last night before an announced crowd of 18,133 at MCI Center.

Guard Coco Miller broke out of an early season shooting slump and scored a game-high 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

“It was a fiasco pretty much in the first half,” Miller said. “In the second half, we did a good job of pulling together and coming back. We knew we were playing bad.”

Holdsclaw, the league’s leading rebounder (15.0) and the Mystics’ leading scorer (16.3), strained her right hamstring in practice Tuesday during fullcourt one-on-one drills. On Wednesday, the Mystics placed her on the injured list, meaning the team’s franchise player must sit out a minimum of three games.

The 6-foot-2 Holdsclaw is eligible to come off the injured list for next Saturday’s home game against the Detroit Shock. The Mystics (1-3) are confident this short stint on the injured list will be all Holdsclaw needs to recover.

Without her, the Mystics turned in the worst offensive performance in team history and found themselves trailing 34-14 at halftime. The Mystics’ previous first-half low was 16 points twice, last season against the Rockers and in 1999 against Los Angeles.

With 52.7 seconds left before halftime, coach Marianne Stanley called a timeout and screamed at her team, calling its performance “disgraceful.” It’s hard to argue with Stanley’s assessment.

The Mystics did not get to the foul line in the first half, missed all nine of their 3-point attempts and shot just 25.9 percent (seven of 27) from the floor.

The Mystics’ first-half turnovers almost matched their points — they turned the ball over 13 times in the first 20 minutes. The Mystics also lost the rebounding battle 21-14 in the first half.

Two long first-half scoring droughts sealed the Mystics’ fate. Center Murriel Page won the opening jump and tipped the ball to Miller. Miller took two dribbles and sank a 15-footer just five seconds into the game.

Then came the drought. For the next 7:40, the Mystics went scoreless but trailed only 8-4 when reserve center Nakia Sanford made an uncharacteristic foul line jumper. Trailing 12-6 with 10:09 before halftime, the Mystics went 4:15 without scoring. This time, however, they weren’t fortunate enough to stay in the game.

“You can’t play halves,” Stanley said. “We have to understand that when we are going through a struggle offensively to put the ball in the basket, we’ve got to rebound. We had a total of four offensive rebounds, and we’re shooting 25 percent in the first half. We had trouble finishing around the basket a lot today.”

The second half was different as the Mystics outscored the Rockers 39-29. Rookie forward Aiysha Smith came off the bench and scored a career-high 10 points.

“They’re definitely a different team without [Holdsclaw],” Rockers forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ll be happy with our win, but we know it’s going to be a different game when we come back.”

Notes — The Mystics activated rookie forward Tamara Bowie off the injured list and placed Slovakian rookie guard Zuzanna Zirkova on it with a lower back strain. … In a pregame ceremony, Holdsclaw was presented with a commemorative ball honoring her milestones when she eclipsed 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in last Saturday’s game at Indiana.

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