The return of Matee Ajavon was a welcome sight for the Washington Mystics, who played host to the Tulsa Shock on Saturday night at Verizon Center. By the end of the first half, Ajavon had 15 points. Unfortunately, the Mystics also had 15 turnovers.
It was the same problem that did them in during their season-opening loss a week earlier to the Chicago Sky, when they turned the ball over 23 times.
The poor ball handling continued in the second half, with an additional 17 turnovers, but the Mystics were able to rely on their defense to hold off a furious fourth-quarter run by the Shock to hang on for a 64-61 win. The 32 turnovers were one less than the franchise-worst 33 they had against the now-defunct Houston Comets during the 1998 season.
“I’m obviously happy that we were able to execute down the stretch and pull out the win, however I was not pleased with the types of turnovers, or the number of turnovers that we committed,” Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said.
“Very simply, we have to make better decisions with the basketball. Some of the turnovers were just silly.”
The Shock, by contrast, turned the ball over 19 times, but had a dismal shooting night, going just 18-for-59 from the floor. The Mystics went 21-for-46, and it was just enough to squeak past the Shock.
“It’s a relief,” Ajavon said. “A win is a win. It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to pull it through. We just have to clean it up and get better. We have to make the easy play, and be more cautious with the ball.”
Ajavon showed no rust in her first game of the season, after missing both preseason games and the last week’s home opener against Chicago with soreness in her right knee. Ajavon led all scorers with 19 points, Crystal Langhorne added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Monique Currie had 15 points.
“Last year, we lost so many games in the fourth quarter by six points or less, so to be able to come through with a close win, I think it will give us some confidence,” Currie said. “They pressured a lot, they trapped the ball, and we need to get into practice and work on those presses and taking care of the ball, because we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”
The Shock outscored the Mystics 18-8 in the final quarter, and the Mystics had several cringe-worthy cross-court passes that wound up in the hands of Shock players and led to 25 of their points.
It’s something the Mystics will need to fix quickly, as the competition is about to get much tougher. Their next contest is Wednesday at home against the last season’s WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.
“Overall, it’s something to build on,” Lacey said. “I thought we kept our composure down the stretch. We work on it everyday, playing with poise, so we will continue to get better at it. There was a little lack of focus, and it’s an area that we must improve in.”