- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

It was an all-too-familiar scene in the Washington Mystics’ locker room. Players sat in front of their lockers, ice packs taped over knees and ankles, with expressions ranging from disappointment to disbelief that another close game had slipped away.

The Mystics, 3-12 after Tuesday’s 73-67 loss to San Antonio, still were hoping to make a playoff push in the second half of the season, but it’s becoming an unlikely scenario unless Washington can find a way to win.

“We gave a huge effort, but again, we came up short,” Marissa Coleman said. “We didn’t execute at the end and had some turnovers that cost us. I just think that in the fourth quarter when we have the lead or when we’re tied, we play a little too passive. We need to start playing to win.

“We talk about it, we say we’re not going to have any lapses, but its a matter of actually going out there and doing it.”

Matee Ajavon said the team’s story line needs to change.

“We’re still getting ourselves together, but it’s the second half of the season,” Ajavon said. “It’s that time where things have to change and we get to the winning side of things.”

The Mystics traveled to New York to face the Liberty on Thursday night and will play at home Friday night against the Indiana Fever.

While four-time All-Star guard Alana Beard remains sidelined with a left foot sprain and has yet to play this season, the Mystics’ upcoming opponents have two all-time superstars in their lineups.

Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter and Fever forward Tamika Catchings recently were voted among the top 15 players in WNBA history in honor of the league’s 15-year anniversary.

Thursday night’s contest was the first of four between the Mystics and Liberty. Washington won 60-57 when the teams met during the preseason May 25.

The addition of forward DeMya Walker brings depth to the frontcourt, and the Mystics will rely on her to help starters Crystal Langhorne and Nicky Anosike provide a strong post presence.

Langhorne, a two-time All-Star, is the Mystics’ leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, which is fifth in the league. Anosike leads the team in rebounds at 9.1 per game, fourth best on the WNBA. Walker is fifth in the league in offensive rebounds with 4.8 per game.

Perhaps the only consolation in having a losing season, Coleman said, is that it’s bringing the team closer together.

“We’re being battle tested right now,” Coleman said, “so I think that is helping us.”