- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

If Washington Mystics coach Marianne Stanley gets her wish, her team will spend the next three days in Charlotte, N.C.
That's because if the Mystics (17-14) win their regular-season finale tonight at the Charlotte Sting (17-14), they will clinch homecourt advantage for the first round of the best-of-3 WNBA Eastern Conference playoffs and open Friday in Charlotte.
If the Mystics lose tonight, the Sting will finish in second place and the first-round playoff series will open Thursday at MCI Center.
"To me the best scenario is to win this game and don't travel," Stanley said. "That way we can get a legitimate day of rest and a legitimate practice in the day before the game. The implications are clear: rest and prepare adequately, or fly home and play the next day."
If the Mystics win tonight and advance to the Eastern Conference finals, that would mean they would have had to win three out of a possible four games against the Sting.
"It's the same for [the Sting]," Stanley said. "The difference is that you play immediately and that makes this game a must-win for that reason."
The teams have split two games this season. The Mystics lost 78-64 with star forward Chamique Holdsclaw in the lineup on June19 in Charlotte. Washington edged the Sting 56-55 on June30 at MCI Center without Holdsclaw, who was out with a severely sprained left ankle. In the Mystics' narrow win, rookie forward Asjha Jones had a team-high 16 points.
The Sting, like the Mystics, are on somewhat of a roll. The Sting have won three straight after suffering through a five-game losing streak. The Mystics have won two of their last three after enduring a seven-game skid.
What sets these teams apart is 3-point shooting. The Sting set a WNBA record for 3-point field goals in a season Sunday in New York. Charlotte has made 205 treys this season, topping the previous record of 204 by the 2000 Minnesota Lynx.
The Sting boast four players guards Andrea Stinson (41.2), Dawn Staley (41.3) and Kelly Miller (47.1) and forward Allison Feaster (41.4) that shoot over 40 percent from behind the 3-point arc. When their perimeter shooting is off, the Sting dump the ball low to 6-foot-4 All-Star center Tammy Sutton-Brown, who averages 11.7 points per game on 53-percent shooting from the floor.
"What they like, we must make it difficult to get," Stanley said. "If we get a lot of both [3-pointers and Tammy Sutton-Brown], it's going to be a long game."
The Mystics showed great resilience in Sunday's 60-54 win at the Cleveland Rockers. Washington scored a season-low 18 points in the first half just two points clear of the team record and then exploded for 42 second-half points.
"The players just stuck with it," Stanley said. "These were the same makeable shots in the second half and the same shots were still there."
Stanley's team is playing better at the right time of the season. Despite losing at home to the New York Liberty last Friday, the Mystics played pretty well in that 74-66 defeat. The Liberty shot 52 percent from the field and made seven of 11 3-pointers.
The Mystics' defense has stepped up the past three games, including the Liberty loss. Washington allowed just 60.6 points per game and held two of its three opponents under 60 points. Given the Sting's perimeter firepower, the Mystics' defense will be challenged.
"What we've said since day one of training camp is defense and rebounding will enable us to reach our goal as Eastern Conference champion," Stanley said. "Those are our two main goals."
Whatever happens tonight, it's been a breakthrough season for Stanley, a leading coach-of-the-year candidate, and the Mystics. Sunday's win at the Rockers guaranteed the Mystics their first winning season in the franchise's five-year history. No small feat considering from where the Mystics have come.
"We're playing well and have recovered from a tough stretch," Stanley said. "At this point, all games are playoff games."

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