- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

With or without star forward Chamique Holdsclaw, the Washington Mystics appear to be in trouble.

Yesterday, for the second straight game, Holdsclaw watched in street clothes as the Mystics crashed to their sixth consecutive loss and ninth in their past 10 games.

The Minnesota Lynx gave the Mystics a dose of inside/outside action. Guard Katie Smith scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first half — all from the perimeter. Michele Van Gorp, the Lynx’s 6-foot-6 backup center, scored 15 of her season-high 17 points in the second half — all in the paint — as the Lynx defeated the Mystics 59-50 before 13,684 at MCI Center.

The Mystics (2-9), who now have the worst record in the WNBA, insist there is plenty of time to recover with two-thirds of the season remaining.

“It can be pretty discouraging but I am asking my team to hang in there and not be discouraged,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “We are not making shots that we are able to make and that is a pretty frustrating place to be. We have been shooting the ball pretty well in practice. I just do not have an explanation, it is just a very frustrating time when you are not making shots that you know you can make.”

Said Mystics guard Stacey Dales-Schuman, “When you lose a few games, sometimes you forget how to win and you’ve just got to win a game to remember how that feels.”

Approximately one hour before tipoff, the Mystics’ team doctor thought it would be better for Holdsclaw to sit out and rest her troublesome right hamstring, especially with a three-game West Coast trip looming later in the week.

“The doctor checked me before the game and said there was some inflammation left, about the size of an egg, so he thought it better to be cautious and then go on the West Coast trip,” Holdsclaw said.

The Mystics are 1-4 in games with Holdsclaw and 1-5 in games without the four-time WNBA All-Star. The last-place Mystics are now four games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Smith, who entered the game as the WNBA’s fourth-leading scorer averaging 17.9, was a matchup nightmare for the Mystics early in the first half. Smith, who holds the WNBA’s single-game scoring high (46 points), looked to be well on her way to another monster game.

Smith went 6-for-6 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, in the first 7:44 to set an early tone. With 16:49 before halftime and the Lynx (7-6) leading 8-5, Smith scored the team’s next 11 points on a variety of jumpers to give Minnesota a 19-10 lead.

The Mystics opened the game with power forward Asjha Jones on Smith. When Smith hit her first three shots, the Mystics put Murriel Page on her. Smith calmly nailed her next three shots and forced the Mystics to deploy a 2-3 zone.

The Mystics’ zone slowed the tempo of the game and took Smith out of her rhythm. The Lynx had a slim 30-25 halftime lead because Smith attempted only two shots in the final 14 minutes of the half.

“They obviously weren’t doing a very good job of guarding us with man-to-man. In the zone they had a chance to slow it down and make you kind of stand and take things away from you,” Smith said.

At halftime, Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio adjusted and pounded the interior of the Mystics’ zone with Van Gorp. Van Gorp made five of six shots, including a sky hook from 10 feet and an 8-foot baseline jump hook, in the first half. The undersized Mystics had no one on their roster tall enough to contest Van Gorp, who finished one point shy of matching her career high of 18.

“We did a lot better job in the second half of moving the ball around, making their zone shift, making them work, and using the whole clock to get a good shot,” Van Gorp said. “We did a better job in the second half of attacking their zone and hurting them from the inside as well as outside.”

The Mystics entered the game as the league’s poorest shooting team (37.2 percent) and lived up to that status with their lowest offensive output of the season. The Mystics starters made just 13 of 45 shots (30.6 percent).

Nakia Sanford, the Mystics’ backup center, was Washington’s only double-figure scorer with a career-high 10 points on five of six shooting. As a team, the Mystics shot 33.9 percent (21 of 62).

“We had trouble hitting our shots,” Mystics shooting guard Coco Miller said. “We have to keep working hard. We’re really close to getting some wins. We need to get one under our belts and continue in that fashion.”

Notes — Washington Wizards third-year center Brendan Haywood made his broadcasting debut yesterday on NewsChannel 8. The 7-footer teamed up with play-by-play announcer Dei Lynam and provided color commentary for the game. … Former Mystics coach Nancy Darsch (1999-2000), who served as a Mystics scout in 2001 and 2002, is now a Lynx assistant coach. … Vicky Bullett, the Mystics’ starting center last season who retired just before training camp, sat courtside yesterday.

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