- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Not pretty, but no shocker at MCI Center.

The first-place Washington Mystics did what they needed to do down the stretch last night against a desperate and winless team: give the ball to possible league MVP Chamique Holdsclaw and get out of the way.

Holdsclaw scored seven of her game-high 24 points during a pivotal five-minute stretch that allowed the Mystics to overcome a late six-point deficit and rally for a 75-67 win over the Detroit Shock before 13,130.

With the win, the Mystics (7-1) are off to the franchise's best start. They tied their longest winning streak at six games and remained unbeaten at home (5-0) and against the WNBA's pedestrian Eastern Conference (5-0).

Holdsclaw, who entered the game as the league's top scorer at 21 points a game, made a fadeaway jumper from the foul line with 8:27 left to cut Detroit's lead to 56-54. Holdsclaw tied the game 58-58 on a driving layup with 6:52 remaining. And she gave the Mystics the lead for good at 65-64 when she made a jumper from the foul line and was fouled by Shock rookie Swin Cash. Holdsclaw calmly sank the free throw, and the Mystics never trailed again.

"I think Swin is a tremendous player, but I always get on the guards, 'If someone has a rookie on them, let them test them,'" Holdsclaw said. "I was just trying to get my shot off and take it to her."

Holdsclaw made 10 of 19 shots and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Holdsclaw is the WNBA's second-leading rebounder at 11.4 a game and trails league-leader Lisa Leslie by just 0.5. Watching Holdsclaw come up clutch is nothing new to Mystics coach Marianne Stanley.

"She's been doing that all year," Stanley said. "We've played eight games, and she's been magnificent in the clutch. When all the chips are on the line, I think she has something special in her where she can deliver the knockout punch, and she was able to do that tonight."

The Mystics play the struggling Charlotte Sting (3-5) tonight in Charlotte, N.C., in the third of six back-to-back games this season.

The Mystics' bench played well, too, outscoring the Shock's 25-17. Rookie forward Asjha Jones scored six of her career-high 10 points in the second half and finished with five rebounds in 16 minutes. But Jones, who is averaging just 11.7 minutes a game, isn't complaining about playing time.

"I'm happy as long as we are winning," Jones said. "I think [Stanley] knows that I'm not a high-maintenance person, and as long as my team is winning I'm happy."

Holdsclaw, the second-leading vote-getter so far for the All-Star Game, was all the offense the Mystics needed in the first half. Holdsclaw led all scorers with 15 points and finished with six rebounds in the half. She made six of 10 shots, while her teammates went a combined 6-for-20.

"She's clutch," said rookie forward Stacey Dales-Schuman, who scored all five of her points in the final 2:23. "She's sort of resilient in that, and she's accepting that role for us. I'm glad she's on my team."

The Mystics' biggest problem in the first half was their shot selection against the smaller Shock (0-10). Sure, the Mystics came into the game as the league's top 3-point shooting team, making 46 of 100 3-pointers on the season. But they stayed outside, making just one of seven 3-pointers in the half and ignoring their advantage in the paint.

One reason why the Mystics held a narrow 32-28 halftime lead was foul trouble to point guard Annie Burgess. Burgess, who entered the game fifth in the WNBA in assists (5.6 a game), played just eight minutes in the half with one assist.

With Burgess on the bench, the Mystics' halfcourt offense wasn't its usual smooth-running machine, and their explosive running game never got in gear in the half.


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