The Washington Mystics had every reason to breathe a sigh of relief at the start of Friday's game against the Atlanta Dream. Forward Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, was out of the lineup, and didn't even make the trip to D.C.
Unfortunately, it was an advantage the Mystics could not capitalize on. Falling into their old familiar pattern of turning the ball over and digging themselves an early hole, the Mystics fell to the Dream 81-69 on Friday at Verizon Center.
Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said the team prepared as if they were going to face McCoughtry, and wasn't sure if her absence helped or hurt in the long run.
"I don't know if we had a mental letdown because she [McCoughtry] wasn't playing, but they still have a very good team, a very talented team, an experienced team. I just didn't think that we were mentally prepared."
Right from the opening tip, the Mystics exhibited a bad case of slippery fingers. By the end of the first quarter they had more turnovers, nine, than shots attempts, seven, and scored just 12 points. By contrast, the Dream ended the quarter on 11 of 20 from the floor with just one turnover and 25 points.
"They had a layup clinic," Monique Currie said. "But it wasn't anything they were doing – it's on us. We really need to take a look at ourselves, especially when we're in a position to move up in the Eastern Conference, and we did not take advantage of it."
The Mystics entered Friday's game three and a half games out of the last playoff spot in the East.
"Our start was terrible," Currie said. "Atlanta did whatever they wanted on offense, and we couldn't get anything going."
The Mystics made some improvements in the second quarter and had just two turnovers, as did the Dream, and almost doubled their point total with 21 on just over 50 percent shooting. But the first quarter deficit was too much to make up, and they trailed by 16 points at halftime, 49-33.
In the second half, the Dream increased their lead to as many as 28 points behind the skillful leadership of former Mystics point guard Lindsey Harding, while the Mystics shot just 11 for 36.
Despite the poor shooting, the Mystics were able to put together another one of their fourth quarter runs, and closed the Dream's lead to eight points with just over a minute left in the game. But, as often happens with this team, the poor start proved to be their undoing, and they simply didn't have enough left to complete the comeback.
The Dream had a balanced scoring attack, with five players in double figures, led by Armintie Price (19), Harding (16) and Tiffany Hayes (16). The Mystics were led by Matee Ajavon with a game-high 20 points, including 16 in the second half. Crystal Langhorne scored 17, and Currie had 14.
The Dream shot 50.8 percent for the game to the Mystics 38.7.
"We just have not done a good job of reading defenses," Lacey said. "We're making poor decisions with the basketball, slowing down offensively in the half court to read the defense, which leads to turnovers and easy baskets for our opponents."
The Dream improve to 12-11, while the Mystics drop to 5-18, the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Center Michelle Snow was at a loss for words to explain the team's ongoing struggles.
"Honestly, I don't know any more," Snow said, shaking her head. "I really don't know. Lately it just feels like everything is going wrong, offensively, defensively... I don't even know how to fix it any more. It's frustrating. It's really, really frustrating."
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