- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

On Sunday, for the third time in two weeks, the Washington Mystics get a chance to topple the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Fever.

Washington has fared well against most of their conference foes this year, but the Fever are the only East team with a win at Verizon Center. Each game has been a back-and-forth affair, but Indiana has been more poised in the fourth quarter and captured each meeting with a dominant late-game stretch.

It is for that reason that Washington feels it can break through against the Fever this time - with a few minor adjustments.

“I think we’re very close with this team and we can beat this team,” Mystics coach Julie Plank said. “But we have to play well, we have to take care of the ball and we gotta keep them off the free throw line. They have two great players in particular, and Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings have really hurt us in the past, so we really need to shut those players down.”

Indiana’s All-Stars have taken turns shredding the Mystics; Catchings had 28 points on July 21, and Douglas poured in a career-high 34 on Tuesday. Most of those points came at the free throw line - the two veteran guards continually attacked the basket, taking advantage of Washington’s aggressive defense.

After reviewing the losses, the Mystics feel such self-imposed mistakes have been their downfall.

“I’m very comfortable playing any team,” guard Alana Beard said. “Sometimes the game goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, but we can handle the things [they do]. It’s in our control.”

The Mystics also pinpointed a need to cut down on turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter. Untimely mistakes proved costly for them in the teams’ first two meetings, and the Mystics dedicated most of Saturday’s practice time to solving Indiana’s pressure defense.

“We know that’s what they rely on,” Plank said. “They’re No. 1 in the league in steals, so they like to pressure. They gamble a lot, and we need to make them pay for that.”

Added Beard: “In the game at Indiana, I made a lot of mistakes in terms of getting trapped and holding onto the ball and not getting it out and finding my teammates. I have to do that a lot better, and I think once we accomplish that, the game will be fairly easy for us.”

The Mystics and Fever play for the final time this season Sept. 6 at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Fever are 10-1. That means Sunday’s game is probably the best chance for Washington to beat the Fever this year. A win would give the Mystics a lift going into a potential playoff matchup, but they said they aren’t putting any extra emphasis on this game.

“Just because it’s Indiana doesn’t make any difference,” Beard said. “If we were going against a high school team, we would want to win that game. Unfortunately, we’ve made mistakes that have cost us those games. It’s nothing that Indiana has done to us; it’s about us adjusting as a team.”

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