- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001


The Washington Mystics have recovered from their season-opening disaster.

The Mystics didn't exactly look like champions, but considering how poorly they played Thursday in setting a WNBA record for the fewest points (34) in a game, anything was an improvement.

Thanks to Chamique Holdsclaw's 16th career double-double and reserve Tonya Washington's second-half surge, the Mystics won their home-opener 68-63 over the Seattle Storm before 17,310 at MCI Center.

Holdsclaw scored a game-high 18 points and yanked down a game-high 11 rebounds.

Washington's contribution was huge. The second-year player out of Florida scored eight of her career-high 12 points in the last 8:25, when the game was still close.

"[Mystics coach Tom Maher] gave me good hard minutes and I played hard for the minutes that I was in there, and that's why we got that win," Washington said.

Washington made a series of pivotal shots for the Mystics. With the Mystics clinging to a 45-44 lead with 8:25 remaining, the 6-foot Washington buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Mystics a 48-44 lead.

With the Mystics (1-1) leading 53-50 and 6:07 left, Washington canned a jumper from the foul line to give the Mystics a 55-50 lead. And with 3:14 left and the Mystics leading by five points, a Washington 3-pointer from the right wing stretched the Mystics' lead to 60-52. She shot 3-for-3 in the half.

"I thought the backbreaker for us was Tonya Washington off the bench," Storm coach Lin Dunn said. "She came in and really hurt us. They've got the ingredients that you need to be successful as far as experienced players, Olympians and bench help. They certainly shot better than they shot at Cleveland."

All the Mystics could do Thursday night against the Rockers was shoot themselves in the foot. The Mystics made only 13 of 53 shots (24.5 percent) against Cleveland. Yesterday, the Mystics made 23 of 56 shots (41.1 percent).

Holdsclaw, 5-for-17 from the floor, showed more determination against the Storm than the Rockers. Holdsclaw, a two-time WNBA All-Star, crashed the boards with authority and drove the lane with conviction. Holdsclaw added three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Holdsclaw played on pride. She was not going to let Thursday's performance spoil the Mystics' home opener.

"You can't go out there and lose to the expansion teams and teams that are definitely in the rebuilding process," Holdsclaw said of beating the 2-year-old Storm. "I know how it is when you are the No. 1 pick [1999], you go to the worst team, and I know when you go and face other teams they're like, 'Naw, we're not going to let this team win.' They've been saying that about us for years."

There aren't many positive things to say about yesterday's dismal first half. The Storm made only eight of 28 shots (28.6 percent), but the Mystics made the Storm's shooting percentage look respectable. The Mystics made eight of 32 shots (25 percent), enabling the Storm (1-1) to take a 27-24 halftime lead.

"I thought we were really tight in the first half," Maher said. "We were getting great looks at the basket, but we were only 25 percent from the field. We got good open shots but just could not capitalize on them because we were too tight."

After Thursday's embarrassing loss, Mystics guard Nikki McCray said she didn't understand her role in Maher's new uptempo system. Yesterday, apparently, she did. McCray scored 16 points 10 via the free throw line on 3-for-9 shooting from the floor.

Meanwhile, the Mystics should give a game ball to veteran center Vicky Bullett for the defensive job she did on the Storm's star 6-5 center, Lauren Jackson. The top pick in April's WNBA Draft, Jackson was held to 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Bullett forced Jackson, who scored 21 points in her WNBA debut, to go to her opposite hand, and the 20-year-old Australian put up a poor selection of shots.

"I took some bad shots the whole game, and I didn't actually play the best that I can play," Jackson said. "I was a bit nervous. There was a lot of people in there, and I'm playing my old coach [Maher], who I love to death. They had a lucky game. They caught us on a not-so-good day."

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