Mystics lacked focus in first half of defeat

Washington never led in home opener

Washington Mystics coach Trudi Lacey has preached a defense-first philosophy since the opening day of training camp. She also has placed an emphasis on post play and will rely heavily on center Nicky Anosike and forward Crystal Langhorne to carry the team.

The Mystics dropped to 1-2 after losing 84-77 to the Chicago Sky at Verizon Center on Saturday, and never led during a game in which the Sky shot well over 60 percent for nearly four quarters.

“It speaks to our lack of defensive focus,” Lacey said. “We have to execute our defensive schemes, understand personnel, who the 3-point shooters are, and who likes to penetrate. I thought we did not do a good job of middle penetration or covering the 3-point shot.”

“In the first half, you could see a lack of focus defensively. In the second half, we were focused defensively; we were able to get stops. We have to keep our focus for 40 minutes,” Lacey said.

Lacey stuck with her starters for much of the game, with only Marissa Coleman playing less than 30 minutes.

“Our bench is young. In the second half, we were making a comeback, so we just decided to go with those guys [the starters],” Lacey said.

A short bench could be something the Mystics have to get used to, with injuries already hampering the team’s rotation.

Four-time all-star guard Alana Beard was expected to return and give the team a strong backcourt presence, but she hasn’t played yet and is listed as day to day with a left foot sprain. Monique Currie is sidelined for the season recovering from an ACL injury, and center Ta’Shia Phillips also is day to day with a tendon sprain.

After petitioning the league to add a player because of the injury hardships, the Mystics signed forward Kerri Gardin, who played 21 minutes in Thursday’s 98-90 overtime win at Atlanta, but only 4 1/2 minutes in Saturday’s loss.

Four starters scored in double figures, with Nicky Anosike struggling from the floor and scoring just seven points on 2-for-12 shooting. Matee Ajavon led all scorers with 24 points, and is filling in nicely for Beard as the starting two-guard spot, but the team no longer has the spark off the bench that Ajavon was known for.

“I think in order for us to win, we have to start out aggressive and keep it throughout the whole game,” Ajavon said.

Langhorne agreed that the team’s defensive mistakes cost them the game.

“We just didn’t come out with the right intensity on defense,” Langhorne said.

“They were moving the ball really well and hitting shots. They were hitting everything because our defense wasn’t that good. We got down in a hole, and it was hard to come back,” Langhorne said.

The Mystics’ next game is Thursday at Verizon Center against the Connecticut Sun.

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