- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

The Washington Mystics have opened this season with both barrels blazing.

After three games, the Mystics are the WNBA's top-scoring team, averaging 85 points, and lead or are in the top three in most offensive categories. It's early, but the Mystics are showing how explosive their high-octane running game is in what is shaping up to be a breakout season.

Consider the following league statistical categories and where the Mystics rank in the 16-team WNBA:

•First in points per game (85)

•First in offensive rebounds per game (13)

•Second in assists per game (19)

•Second in 3-point field goal percentage (47.5)

•Third in field goal percentage (46.7)

•Third in free throw percentage (79.5)

•Third in rebounds per game (33)

If the Mystics can keep up this kind of scoring the rest of the season, they will shatter the league record of 77.3 points held by the 2000 Houston Comets. Tonight the home folks get a second look at their scoring juggernaut when the Mystics (2-1) play the Nikki McCray-led Indiana Fever (2-1) at MCI Center.

"To be truthful, we don't talk about the scoring, we don't talk about getting a whole bunch of points, we just talk about doing what we do well and the scoring will take care of itself," first-year coach Marianne Stanley said. "Am I surprised that we're scoring 90-something? To a point, yes, but we're establishing what we think works for us in a way that we're having a lot of good chances and we're making the most of those chances."

What makes the numbers even more impressive is that the Mystics have accomplished them without star forward Chamique Holdsclaw. Holdsclaw missed the Mystics' recent two-game western trip due to the death of her grandmother. Holdsclaw, who scored 19 points in the season opener, is arguably one of the top five players in the league. The Mystics probably would be undefeated if Holdsclaw had made the trip.

"I said after the Utah game [a 97-89 victory Tuesday] to the team, 'That was pretty good, but wait till 'Mique comes back, then look out,'" said rookie guard Stacey Dales-Schuman, who is averaging 16.3 points.

The Mystics wouldn't be the WNBA's version of "Showtime" if not for the point guard play of Annie Burgess, who has them running and gunning. In halfcourt sets, the Australian floor general has been able to penetrate the lane and kick the ball out to the team's talented perimeter shooters. Burgess ranks third in the league in assists averaging 6.3.

"We're playing a real uptempo game and trying to get the ball down as quick as we can, and we've got players that are running the floor and that's really helping the team," Burgess said. "Everyone is playing with confidence, and when you are a confident player, your shots go in."

The Mystics also are establishing a nice scoring balance. Currently, four players Holdsclaw (19.0), Dales-Schuman (16.3), center Vicky Bullett (14.3) and guard Coco Miller (11.7) are averaging in double figures. Super sub Helen Luz is just below at 9.3 points. It appears there is plenty of firepower to go around.

"That's what happens when you have a running game," said Mystics player personnel consultant Pat Summitt.

Added Dales-Schuman: "We have shooters. You bring people in off the bench, or you start people. Whomever plays, you're going to get a 3-pointer, you're going to get a jumper. It's just the flow, and we have shooters on this team."

So far Stanley has achieved a remarkable scoring turnaround from last season, when the Mystics averaged just 60.3 points last in the league.

"Something that has really helped us, I don't know who it was, but they said our team was going to come in last," Burgess said. "People are kind of underestimating us this year. We want to win the Eastern Conference."

Note Balloting for the WNBA All-Star Game July 15 at MCI Center begins today. Fans can vote for the starting lineups online at www.wnba.com or pick up ballots at arenas in all 16 WNBA cities.

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