- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Washington Mystics continued their freefall at Verizon Center on Tuesday night, succumbing 79-68 to the Indiana Fever.

Indiana’s Tamika Catchings scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Mystics dropped their third straight game since the WNBA season resumed after the Olympics. Fever guard Tan White and forward Katie Douglas each scored 19 points, but the Mystics’ season-high 24 turnovers sealed their fate.

“I really don’t have anything to say,” interim Washington coach Jessie Kenlaw said. “We turned the ball over entirely too much. We can’t expect to win with 24 turnovers. That was the difference.”

Unlike their 92-78 loss at Minnesota on Saturday - in which Kenlaw described her team’s early performance as “lethargic” - the Mystics jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter. But Washington faltered in the last minute of the period and let the Fever crawl to within four.

Center Nakia Sanford - who scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half - paced Washington through a powerful second quarter. The Mystics took advantage of 20 points in the paint and a 20-10 edge on the boards to take a nine-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

But Catchings came out firing in the third quarter, draining a 3-pointer to help Indiana creep back into contention. Tully Bevilaqua banked in another 3-pointer to tie the score at 51-51, and a putback by White off Douglas’ near miss from beyond the arc put the Fever up by two. Kenlaw called a timeout to try and gather her team, but it was too late. The Mystics lost their rebounding advantage and committed seven turnovers in the third quarter.

Douglas and Catchings stretched the Fever lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter. The Mystics continued their season-long trend of committing costly errors down the stretch. They missed foul shots and allowed Catchings wide-open trips down the lane. Their 12 second-half turnovers helped the Fever outscore them 42-23.

“The first half was great,” Kenlaw said. “We got fatigued there in the second half, particularly in the third quarter.”

Washington’s Alana Beard scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed five rebounds from her new post at point guard - the former Duke star has taken over the position with Nikki Blue limited with an ankle injury - but Kenlaw said the team would be better off with Beard back in her normal role at shooting guard.

“It just wasn’t enough tonight,” Kenlaw said.

Tuesday night’s loss nearly extinguishes the Mystics’ hopes of making the playoffs. Indiana holds the fourth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, and Washington now trails it by four games with five games remaining. With three of them on the road and all but one of them against teams with winning records, the Mystics’ chances seem dashed.

“We get one thing figured out, and then something else crumbles,” Kenlaw said.

Storm 83, Dream 69: In Atlanta, Sue Bird scored 21 points and had nine assists to lead Seattle to a victory over the woeful Dream (3-27), which needs to win two of its final four games to avoid setting a WNBA record for fewest wins.

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