- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001


Earlier in the day, the Washington Mystics officially were awarded next year's WNBA All-Star Game. The Mystics celebrated the occasion last night by making 16 of 61 shots in a 55-51 loss against the Minnesota Lynx.

The Mystics' season of promise is fading fast. Washington has 22 games left, including a West Coast swing and six games against the top three teams in the league.

The Mystics last night crashed to their seventh straight loss the third-longest losing streak in team history. With the loss, the 2-8 Mystics have the second-worst record in the 16-team league.

It looks like the Mystics hyped as playoff contenders in the preseason will have a difficult time just winning 10 games this season.

Lynx guard Katie Smith scored a team-high 22 points as Minnesota defeated the Mystics in a poorly played game before 13,823 at MCI Center.

Smith came into the game as the WNBA's leading scorer at 25.6 points a game. At least the Mystics can say they held the high-powered Smith under her average. But that's about all they can say.

The Lynx (4-5) did everything in their possible power to hand the Mystics the game. Minnesota turned the ball over 22 times and shot 34 percent (18 of 52).

"That's the tough part, it makes you want to smash a wall in," Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw said.

Only a poorer shooting performance by the Mystics kept the Lynx out of the loss column.

"When you shoot 26 percent, how many mistakes can you make?" Mystics coach Tom Maher said.

Holdsclaw led all scorers with 23 points. No other Mystics' player had an offensive game worth mentioning. Take away Holdsclaw's eight of 19 from the floor and the rest of the Mystics combined to make eight of 42 shots.

"I'm not going to say anything because we have to be positive," Holdsclaw said. "I'm frustrated, but I know things could be worse. People have got to appreciate what they have and that goes far beyond basketball."

The Lynx were without Betty Lennox, last season's WNBA rookie of the year, because of a strained left hip suffered on June 17 at Detroit. Before she got hurt, Lennox was the Lynx's second-leading scorer at 12.5 points a game.

Without the point guard last night, the Lynx struggled bringing the ball up the court. In the game's first five minutes, Minnesota turned the ball over three times under the Mystics' extended pressure.

The Mystics deployed a halfcourt trap to rattle the Lynx's shaky ball handlers. As a result, the Lynx were 1-for-7 from the floor after the first 4:54 and the Mystics opened an early 8-2 lead.

While the Lynx desperately missed Lennox nine first half turnovers the Mystics shot so poorly they kept Minnesota in the game. After their opening spurt, the Mystics went 1-for-13 from the field and allowed the Lynx back into the game.

It was hard to tell which was worse in the first half, which ended in a 30-30 tie, the Lynx's poor ballhandling, or the Mystics' shooting.

The Mystics made just nine of 31 shots (29 percent) and the Lynx's nine turnovers led to 13 Mystics' points. In the last 6:02 before halftime, the Lynx outscored the Mystics 18-10.

Smith was her usually outstanding self. A member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team, she led all scorers with 11 points in the half. Smith wasn't particularly deadly from behind the 3-point line (1-for-5), but hurt the Mystics with her midrange game.

Smith scored the Lynx's first six points to keep Minnesota close early.

Forward Shanele Stires, a 5-foot-11 wing, scored six points, pulled down four rebounds and added a career-high three assists in 12 minutes of action.

Stires, who played at Kansas State, was all over the court. She chased down loose balls, yanked down key rebounds and hit timely shots. The Mystics were on an 8-2 run and leading 20-12 when Stires broke the Mystics' momentum with a 3-pointer at 5:20 that cut the deficit to 20-15.

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