After playing their worst half of the season, the Washington Mystics needed a boost Tuesday night. They received two - one in the locker room and another on the court.
The Mystics scored just 14 points in the first half, prompting a heated speech from Alana Beard. On the court, Taj-McWilliams Franklin made a go-ahead layup with 2:15 left as the Mystics beat the Indiana Fever, snapping their three-game losing streak with a sloppy but morale saving 50-48 win at Verizon Center.
The first half was one of the worst in franchise history. The Mystics shot a miserable 26.9 percent, had nearly as many turnovers (13) as points (14) and managed only two assists. The 14 points were Washington’s fewest in a half this season and just one better than the franchise low set July 21, 2007, at the Detroit Shock.
In the second half, McWilliams-Franklin scored 16 of her game-high 20 points.
“We put the ball in our best two players’ hands, AB and Taj,” coach Tree Rollins said. “We ran some pick and rolls. They were switching, so once we made that offensive adjustment, the floor opened up for us.”
Nothing Rollins did in the first half could shake the Mystics out of their funk.
He shuffled the lineup, using 10 players and Beard at three positions in an attempt to provide a spark. He switched from man-to-man defense to zone. And he tried pressing.
None of it worked.
“Anything you can do wrong as a team we did in the first half,” Rollins said. “We showed a lot of character coming back, but if you can play that way one half, you should be able to play that way for two halves.”
The only mitigating factor for Washington’s dismal first half was that the Fever - the league’s third-lowest scoring team - shot a meager 35.5 percent and scored just 29 points.
After Beard’s speech, the Mystics (7-11) started the second half with some life, cutting into Indiana’s lead with a 13-6 run to open the third quarter. But just as they started to get a little momentum going, their cold shooting returned, and they missed seven straight shots and 10 of their last 11.
But again, Indiana (9-9) wasn’t able to capitalize. The Mystics kept up their defensive intensity and were aided by more poor shooting from the Fever. They kept the Mystics in the game by scoring just 11 points in the quarter.
Washington got back into the game in the fourth.
As Indiana continued to struggle, McWilliams-Franklin was able to find holes in the Fever’s defense underneath the basket. She scored eight of Washington’s first 11 points during a 16-3 run that the Mystics used to tie the game at 43-43 with 3:54 left. After exchanging 3-pointers, McWilliams-Franklin grabbed an offensive rebound and put the Mystics ahead for good.
Despite the win, Rollins knows Washington has to find consistency to be successful in the long run.