- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000


ORLANDO, Fla. The Washington Mystics are down to their ninth life, their final wish or any other term they want to use for their last chance to make the WNBA playoffs.

They blew another opportunity last night in a 65-57 loss to the Orlando Miracle at TD Waterhouse Centre. With the Detroit Shock's 11-point victory over Indiana last night and the Mystics' loss, the Mystics must either beat Cleveland or have Detroit lose to New York tomorrow to secure their first playoff berth.

The Mystics (13-18), who have lost six of their last eight games, continue to falter at inopportune times. They again are tied with the Shock for the fourth and final playoff spot.

In a sloppy display by two playoff-caliber teams, the Mystics simply did not play well enough to win. There were missed layups, poor execution and rebounding and other errors that add up to defeat. Washington did not perform as if it was playing a game that determined its playoff fate.

"I can't find anybody to run the offense the way it's supposed to be run," said coach Darrell Walker, who added that guards Keisha Anderson and Nikki McCray need to do a better job of running the offense.

"They've got to grow up. When the ball's in their hands, they have to direct the offense."

Walker was upset about a lack of offensive execution similar to Sunday night's 77-60 loss at Cleveland. The Mystics shot 36.2 percent and did not run a structured offense throughout the second half.

The third-place Miracle (16-15) clinched a playoff berth Sunday, when they ended their seven-game losing streak by beating Detroit. But Orlando played as if it still had much on the line.

The Mystics trailed by as few as four with 15 minutes remaining, but a 12-3 Orlando run put the Mystics on the ropes at 47-36 with under 10 minutes left. The Mystics doomed themselves by netting one field goal in a span of more than seven minutes.

They cut the lead to seven with 4:36 left, but a jumper by Nykesha Sales, who scored 14 second-half points, made sure the Mystics never got closer.

The Mystics' woes seemingly started with their first shot, a miss by Chamique Holdsclaw that rattled the rim and bounced out. It was a precursor to their shooting for the game, one of their worst efforts of the season. Orlando's defense played a role, but the Mystics missed several open layups.

Holdsclaw missed 11 of her 15 field goal attempts, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. She pulled down 12 rebounds and added six assists but couldn't get the shots to fall.

"Shots that I missed I don't normally miss," Holdsclaw said. "That's kind of the way the ball bounced tonight."

Nikki McCray (10 first-half points) and the Mystics' defense kept them in it through the early going. By forcing nine Miracle turnovers, the visitors trailed only 30-27 at the half.

Orlando All-Star Taj McWilliams, who scored 13 first-half points, went down with an ankle injury with 18:35 to go in the game, but even that didn't help the Mystics.

The Mystics faced a similar situation to last night late last season, when, riding a six-game winning streak, they played at Orlando while chasing a playoff spot. The Miracle pasted them 81-54, and the Mystics finished 12-20 and out of the playoffs.

Last night's loss wasn't nearly as decisive, but the defeat still leaves the Mystics short of their goal. Now they must beat a team the Rockers tomorrow they have defeated just twice in 10 tries in their history or hope Detroit loses.

"You want to go into the playoffs on a winning note," Walker said. "Why do you have to rely on somebody else to take care of your destiny? Tonight we didn't get it done. We didn't get it done at all."

Notes The Eastern Conference winner (first-place New York or second-place Cleveland) has not been decided. If the Mystics make the playoffs and play Cleveland, the first game of the best-of-3 conference semifinal will be Friday at 7 p.m. at MCI Center. If they play New York, Game 1 of the series will be Saturday at 8 p.m. at MCI Center.

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