Blue’s return could give Mystics a big boost

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After returning from an 0-3 road trip, the Washington Mystics received some good news Tuesday.

Starting point guard Nikki Blue, who was expected to be out four weeks with a sprained ankle, participated in a full practice and is likely to play against the Sacramento Monarchs on Wednesday, according to coach Tree Rollins.

Blue, who sprained her right ankle May 25 in a win over Houston, credits her quick recovery to the extra time she spent with team trainer Navin Hettiarachchi.

The guard stayed off the ankle and iced it several times a day. Her ankle looked good Monday, and she was cleared to play this week.

After watching Washington’s road woes from home, Blue is anxious to return.

“Now that I’m back, I’ll be able to contribute something, and hopefully we’ll get on a roll,” said Blue, who is averaging 0.7 points and a team-leading 3.7 assists in three games. “I just want to be that extra component that we need to win.”

Blue’s return should help Washington’s offensive efficiency. She has more experience in Rollins’ system than the team’s other point guards.

The Mystics will keep only two point guards on the active roster. Rollins said the staff will decide after Wednesday’s shootaround between Amber Jacobs, who has three starts in Blue’s stead, and Crystal Smith, who joined the Mystics for last week’s road trip.

In each of its road losses, Washington (2-6) was doomed by one bad quarter. To reverse their losing streak, the Mystics will have to be more consistent.

“Our team is playing very hard,” Rollins said. “We’ve been in games, but we have those lulls where we have too many turnovers at one time or we miss too many free throws at one time.”

Washington’s struggles during those stretches are exacerbated because the team slumps collectively, having what Rollins calls a “devastating” effect on the Mystics’ chances.

On June 3 at Phoenix, the Mystics were blitzed 28-16 in the first quarter and never held a lead.

Friday at San Antonio, Washington trailed 47-46 entering the fourth quarter but was outscored 16-6 en route to a 63-52 loss.

Sunday at Connecticut, the Mystics watched a three-point halftime deficit grow to 20 after being outscored 29-12 in the third quarter.

“Sometimes we play really hard but not really smart,” forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. “That’s something that we are going to have to put together. If you do that, you’re more than likely going to put yourself in a position to win at the end of the games. We don’t want to be so far behind that you can’t even think about winning, and that’s where we’ve been.”

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