- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

The Washington Mystics are beginning to look a lot like Lloyd Christmas.
Remember when Jim Carrey's pitifully idiotic character in "Dumb and Dumber" asked the beautiful but happily married woman about the chances of them ending up together?
"You mean not good, like one out of a hundred?" he asked.
"I'd say more like one out of a million," she replied.
After a moment's pause, Lloyd's face spread into a goofy grin. "So you're telling me there's a chance? Yes!"
Exit stage left.
Enter the last-place Mystics, minus top scorer and rebounder Chamique Holdsclaw to a foot injury, to face the first-place and fully healthy Los Angeles Sparks today at MCI Center.
Do they agree that the smart money is on Los Angeles (16-3), which is riding a seven-game winning streak and is 5-2 lifetime against Washington?
"Of course they'll be favorites," Mystics coach Tom Maher said. "But this is not a million to one favorites. It's not looking impossible."
Christmas, by the way, did not get the girl. But on the court, no script is finished until the final buzzer sounds.
So how do the undermanned and overmatched Mystics (5-12) figure to end their three-game losing streak?
By being brighter than the Sparks.
"I appreciate that they have great athletes and they can handle the ball and they're quick and they can shoot fantastically," Maher said. "But if we play smart and come with our 'A' game, then I think we can win."
In Maher's war of the basketball mind, the first battle will be waged among the Mystics themselves as they try to rebound mentally from the loss of Holdsclaw. With their star player on the sideline Wednesday, Washington fell to the then-last-place Detroit Shock 64-52.
"I think that the first game after Chamique [went on the injured list], I think it worried the group more than it should have," Maher said. "Having experienced that, I think we should be much better off, much better adjusted [today]. It's a mental thing more than anything else. We can't beat ourselves mentally."
Said Holdsclaw: "The thing that kills our team is you always have to be in attack mode. I think sometimes we make turnovers and we get real passive. We get real nervous to do things. You've just got to go out there and play and be in attack mode."
Even if the Mystics manage to overcome these mental barriers, they will still have to play a physical game. The team averages 15.6 turnovers 19 against Detroit led to 24 points for the Shock so it is vital for Washington to hold on to the ball against the Sparks, the WNBA's top-scoring team.
"I think it comes down to not letting them just get 40 fastbreak points," Maher said. "If they're going to get big numbers off the fastbreak, then we're in big trouble because their athleticism will overwhelm us."
Basically, the feeling around the Mystics is that every player is going to have to raise her game for Washington to make a run or at least not get blown out.
"We're not going to beat them being afraid to shoot the ball or not penetrating or not playing defense," Holdsclaw said. "If we don't do those things, it could be really embarrassing."

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