- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001


It's not over yet for the Washington Mystics. But it's getting awfully close. Desperately needing a win to continue clinging to their hopes for a postseason berth, the Mystics doused the Portland Fire 64-50 last night before 15,532 at MCI Center.
For the second time in three games, Washington (9-17) never trailed, and it was the Mystics' largest margin of victory this season.
Washington guards Nikki McCray and Annie Burgess matched Portland guard Carolyn Young with 13 points each. Fire rookie Jackie Stiles was held to just seven points.
"The reason why we're starting to turn things around is simple we're playing better," Mystics coach Tom Maher said. "It's not any other magical formula. The fact of the matter is that we've just gotten a lot better at what we do."
Despite the win, Washington's postseason chances got smaller as the Charlotte Sting currently in the Eastern Conference's fourth and final playoff spot beat the Minnesota Lynx 72-64 in Minneapolis.
The Mystics now must win five of their six remaining games and need Charlotte to go no better than 2-5 to have a chance at the playoffs.
The teams face each other Monday to conclude the three-game season series.
"Charlotte is the game," Maher said. "We have to win because we need that split over Charlotte."
The Mystics got off to a quick start against the Fire, blistering to a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes.
"[The run had] a lot of impact," Maher said.
One of the WNBA's worst field goal shooting teams, the Mystics uncharacteristically made 60 percent (six of 10) from the field in the opening five minutes.
On the other end of the floor, Mystics forward Murriel Page recorded two blocks and tipped away a pass to force a Fire turnover and keep Portland's offense at bay.
It wasn't the last the Fire heard from Page on the defensive end. By halftime, she had tied her career high with four blocks and contributed another steal as Washington went into the locker room leading 33-22.
"We wanted to come out tonight and help our guards and take care of business in the inside, and we felt like we were doing that," said Page, who credited preparation more than reflexes for her blocks.
The teams looked equally sloppy coming out of the locker room, though, and the ugliness did not subside until after the 13:00 mark, when the Mystics extended their lead to 21 on three consecutive layups that came in every way possible.
The first was scored on a solo drive by guard Audrey Saurey with 12:32 left. The next was 24 seconds later on a nice pass by guard Annie Burgess to guard Nikki McCray, cutting on the baseline. The final one was on a fastbreak layup by Burgess after she grabbed a jump ball from Page and put Washington up 48-27 with 11:02 left.
Two and a half minutes later with Washington up 53-30, Maher began to substitute.
Anchored by Young's eight points in garbage time, the Fire pulled within 11 with 3:16 left before Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw slowed Portland down with four of her 10 points.
Notes Mystics center Tausha Mills left the game with 1:21 remaining in the first half with a right foot sprain. She is day-to-day… . Stiles departed with 7:43 remaining after injuring her right wrist.

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