- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

For the first three games under interim coach Jessie Kenlaw, the Washington Mystics looked like an improved team with rejuvenated playoff aspirations. But after a dismal performance Sunday, Washington is right where it started nine days ago when Tree Rollins was fired - looking for answers.

In losing to the Connecticut Sun 82-60 at Verizon Center, the Mystics seemingly wiped out all the improvements they had made. Instead, Washington’s formula for a blowout loss returned: inaccurate shooting (22-for-62, 35.5 percent), a propensity for turnovers (18) and lazy defense (21 fouls committed).

No matter how feverishly Kenlaw urged her players to work harder and play sharper, the Mystics’ energetic coach was helpless to breathe life into her lackluster team.

“I was very disappointed,” she said bluntly. “I thought we were a little bit closer than we were. We had a setback tonight because we didn’t make shots. But my thing is if you don’t make shots, you’ve gotta get stops, and we didn’t do that either.”

The Mystics (10-16) knew when July started that their performance during the busy month would go a long way toward determining their playoff hopes. Despite their 4-7 July record, they started Sunday just a game behind fourth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference. But with the lopsided loss to a Connecticut team they had beaten two weeks earlier at Verizon Center, the Mystics frittered away any chance to draw even with the Fever for the final playoff spot heading into the Olympic break.

And with only eight regular-season games left after league play resumes, it was a stumble the Mystics are already regretting.

“It slipped through our fingers,” said guard Alana Beard, whose slump continued with seven points on 2-for-12 shooting. “We continue to put ourselves in position of reaching our goal [of making the playoffs], but every time we take a step back.”

Washington’s only lead came in the first quarter, and it kept close with Connecticut (16-10) until the second quarter when the Sun used a 14-6 run to stretch their lead to double digits by halftime.

The Sun put the game out of reach by opening up the second half with a 17-6 run. Their onslaught was led by center Asjha Jones, who finished with a game-high 27 points.

Any hopes the Mystics had of making a comeback were squashed by their erratic shooting. Washington’s starters - Beard, Nikki Blue, Monique Currie, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Nakia Sanford - combined for 27 points on 8-for-34 shooting.

The Mystics now have a month to make improvements before the stretch run of the season. Their next game isn’t until Aug. 29, when they host Chicago at Verizon Center.

“We have to work even harder,” Beard said. “I have complete faith in the coaches and the team, but we’re gonna use this month to our advantage. It’ll be a good thing for Jessie to have time to implement her system and get out of us what she wants.”

Liberty 86, Dream 76

ATLANTA | Shameka Christon scored 24 points, and Janel McCarville had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead New York to a win over Atlanta.

The Liberty head into the Olympic break having won six of their last seven games.

Sparks 92, Lynx 84 (OT)

MINNEAPOLIS | Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie each scored 23 points as Los Angeles beat Minnesota.

The Lynx (13-13) were shut out in overtime as the Sparks (15-12) scored eight points after regulation to get the win.

Silver Stars 76, Shock 64

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. | Becky Hammon scored 23 points, and Ruth Riley added 14 to help San Antonio hand Detroit its fourth straight loss.

Fever 88, Mercury 84

PHOENIX | Forward Tamika Catchings scored 25 points and added six assists in Indiana’s win over Phoenix.

Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 25 points and seven rebounds.

Storm 77, Monarchs 71

SEATTLE | Sue Bird scored 25 points on 8-for-15 shooting as Seattle held off Sacramento.

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