- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

For the Washington Mystics who will grace the cover of next week's TV Guide last night's game against Portland wasn't at all a rerun of the previous four.

It only ended that way.

Washington guard Coco Miller missed a go-ahead free throw with 2:02 to play, one of five botched by the Mystics in the final four minutes as they dropped their fifth straight to the Fire 67-65 before 16,188 at MCI Center.

As a result of the loss, the reeling Mystics (15-11) dropped into second place in the Eastern Conference behind New York, which beat Miami.

Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw, who scored a game-high 26 points, was forced to leave the game with 2:02 left after turning her ankle. The injury was to her right ankle, not the one that caused her to miss nine games earlier this season. She is listed as day-to-day.

Despite opening the game with an energy level unseen during its recent skid, Washington found itself trailing by as much as 11 midway through the second half. But Holdsclaw scored 12 points in the next 5:47, keying a 13-4 run that brought the Mystics within 65-63 with 3:31 to play.

Miller tied the game when she grabbed a loose ball and sank a layup despite being fouled by Portland forward Alisa Burras. Miller could not complete the three-point play, however, as the Mystics shot just 4-for-10 from the foul line in the second half.

The loss spoiled a spirited Mystics effort that seemed sure to produce a victory. For the first time since her return from a sprained ankle, Holdsclaw was not the only player in double figures as Annie Burgess chipped in 11. Murriel Page had eight and Vicky Bullett and Miller added seven each.

"I feel that we broke out of our rut to a great degree; we just did not win the game," Washington coach Marianne Stanley said. "We wanted a different result, and we did not get the result that we wanted. But we have to appreciate the fact that … we could have easily been standing up here saying, 'Hey, great win. We're out of the rut.' It's a whisper that separates one from the other."

Washington had a chance to tie the game with 1.4 seconds left after Fire guard Tamicha Jackson missed a pair of free throws. But Portland's Stacey Thomas knocked away Page's inbound pass intended for Helen Luz.

Earlier in the game, Washington's halfcourt offense showed signs of operating fluidly for the first time in weeks. In the first half, Washington called a play it had developed this week in practice and executed it to perfection, generating an open 3-point shot for Miller. She nailed it, putting Washington up 11-7 and starting an 8-2 run.

"I think we are better from this game than we were," Stanley said. "We have taken a step forward now we need to take another one. … We are not going to be complacent and satisfied that we played a little better."

Page, starting in place of rookie Stacey Dales-Schuman, had four first-half assists, as the Mystics finally rediscovered the kind of ball movement that fueled their 10-2 start to the season. Washington hit 50 percent of its shots in the period and more importantly Holdsclaw wasn't taking all of them. Bullett, Miller and Burgess each had at least five points at the break to go along with Holdsclaw's 15.

But poorly timed Washington turnovers allowed Portland to stay close. Washington had eight, leading to 14 Portland points.

A bad pass by Washington rookie Asjha Jones led to an easy layup by Portland guard Tully Bevilaqua, who had hit a 3-pointer just seconds earlier to give the Fire its first lead 27-26. Those two baskets by Bevilaqua capped an 8-0 spurt and stretched Portland's lead to three with 4:52 left in the first.

But Holdsclaw erupted for 10 points before the half ended, and Burgess' runner with 5.8 seconds left gave Washington a 39-37 halftime lead.

Dales-Schuman's absence from the starting lineup last night marked the first time this season that she hasn't started when healthy. Page's insertion into the starting five allowed Holdsclaw to move to small forward. Stanley said after the game she intends to stick with the change for now.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide