- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

The Washington Mystics need to win one of two games from the Charlotte Sting at Charlotte Coliseum to advance to the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals. If the Mystics play today like they did Thursday at MCI Center, this best-of-3 first-round series will end.
Washington's convincing 74-62 Game 1 victory brought back early-season memories of the team as an offensive juggernaut. The Mystics' 74 points were the most they have scored since an 87-86 overtime win at Sacramento on June 25 a span of 21 games.
"I said to our team, 'It's nice to see Mystics basketball again, the way we were playing earlier in the year,'" said Mystics coach Marianne Stanley. "It's so refreshing to see our team do the hard work playing that way again."
Before that, the Mystics (18-15) hadn't been playing at all well. Going into Thursday's playoff opener, the team had lost nine of 11 games and scored in the 50s five times during that stretch.
That's all forgotten now as the Mystics seek to wrap up the Sting with their first victory in three tries in Charlotte. If the Sting win, Game3 will be Monday at 7 p.m.
The Mystics have lost two games this season in Charlotte by an average of 12 points, but Thursday's victory lifted the team's shaken confidence.
"The regular season is over and nobody cares about that it's out the door," star forward Chamique Holdsclaw said. "Right now, people are saying we are underdogs. I don't think anybody is an underdog. It's wide open."
Holdsclaw, who missed 12 games because of ankle injuries and personal reasons, makes the Mystics' offense go. In Game1, she scored a game-high 26 points and yanked down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Sting coach Anne Donovan, a three-time All-American while playing for Stanley at Old Dominion in the early 1980s, elected to play man defense on Holdsclaw for most of Game1. That strategy failed as Sting forward Charlotte Smith, a niece of N.C. State and pro legend David Thompson, was physically no match for Holdsclaw. For a brief spell, Donovan tried shooting guard Andrea Stinson on Holdsclaw, the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder, and that also turned out to be a colossal mismatch.
In the regular-season finale Tuesday in Charlotte, the Sting double-teamed Holdsclaw whenever she received the ball and forced her into four of 17 shooting for eight points.
"I guess they thought from the other game that I would shoot myself out of it," Holdsclaw said. "I made some adjustments after watching the tape and seeing how they were playing me trying to push me out. If I get the ball in the post, I'm digging in. No more trying to shoot the fadeaway, I'm just going to try to back them down. If they double me, I'm kicking it out to the open player."

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