- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Washington Mystics built their late-season run to the playoffs on unselfish play, grit and team defense. But all were lacking in Monday night’s 80-70 loss to the Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of the WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals.

Washington, which won five of its last six regular-season games to earn the final playoff berth in the East, had a season-low six assists and had 17 turnovers. Connecticut had a playoff record 12 steals, including a WNBA single-game playoff record seven by Nykesha Sales.

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” said Mystics forward Stacey Dales-Schuman, who scored 10 points but was just two of eight from the floor. “We didn’t show the ball well and we had just six assists, and that’s not going to cut it. When we play well, it is as a team. I guarantee we will [play as a team] on Wednesday.”

They had better or their season will be over. As it is, the Mystics’ 67-59 win on Saturday seems like a long time ago, especially after the Sun jumped to a 19-3 lead Monday night.

The winner of tonight’s Game 3 at Mohegan Sun Arena will advance to the Eastern Conference finals against New York beginning Friday. Washington seeks its second trip to the Eastern Conference finals in three years while the Sun look to return to the conference finals for the second straight year.

Neither team has won a deciding playoff game. The Mystics dropped Game3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference finals to New York 64-57 and the Sun — then the Orlando Miracle — were routed by the Cleveland Rockers in the finale of the Eastern Conference semifinals 72-43.

Mystics rookie guard Alana Beard had 15 points Monday but was just four of 13 from the floor after averaging 21.7 in her previous seven games. She promised the Mystics will look more like the team that finished the season than the one that played Monday.

“It’s going to be a dogfight, I can tell you that,” she said.

And in order to make a fight out of it the Mystics need to do what they did in Game1, when they limited Connecticut to just 35.6 percent shooting from the floor. Sales was 1-for-9 with four points, and Wendy Palmer-Daniels was 1-for-6 with three points. Game 2 was a reversal that saw the Sun heat up and shoot 46 percent as Sales and Palmer-Daniels finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

“Defense is our identity,” Beard said. “It is what we pride ourselves on as a team.”

Rebounding also will be a key. The Mystics outrebounded the Sun 44-32 in Game 1 but were beaten on the boards 29-24 in Game 2. Many of the Sun’s rebounds came early in the game when they built up their lead. Mystics post players Chasity Melvin and Nakia Sanford combined for 20 rebounds in the opener but were held to seven total on Monday.

“Hopefully, we will all be in synch Wednesday night and take care of business,” Mystics coach Michael Adams said.

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