- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

It doesn’t matter who starts for the Washington Mystics — it’s who finishes.

Although the Mystics are still trying to find an identity after eight games under first-year coach Michael Adams, the bench has been productive. Only twice this season have their reserves been outscored, and one of those was merely by one to the Connecticut Sun.

The Mystics (3-5), who will be shooting for their first consecutive wins of the season tonight against the struggling San Antonio Silver Stars (3-7) at MCI Center, are coming off arguably their best performance of the season. In Sunday’s 62-60 victory over the first-place New York Liberty, the bench scored more than half the points (32). The Mystics’ subs are averaging 22.8 points.

The team goes a legitimate 10 deep, with a second five ready if the starters aren’t getting the job done. Some of the Mystics think they have the best bench in the league and no wonder. Their bench has outscored opponents’ reserves 183-109.

“We’re a really deep team, and I really think any of us could start,” said shooting guard Coco Miller, who matched her season high with eight points in a reserve role against the Liberty. “When our legs get tired, we can get fresh bodies in there and not really lose a whole lot.”

Adams has used four starting lineups in the eight games. That means normally high-scoring players like Miller, center Chasity Melvin and guards Stacey Dales-Schuman and Tamicha Jackson rotate in and out and give the team a lift when they come in as subs. Adams’ running, up-tempo style requires lots of bodies, so more people are going to play.

“Ideally, everybody wants to start, but that just can’t happen,” Adams said. “I think we are finally trying to get our rotation down, and I think people that know they are coming off the bench are getting comfortable with knowing they can contribute and get significant minutes.”

The Mystics’ current starting lineup consists of rookie Alana Beard at point guard, veterans Murriel Page and Chamique Holdsclaw at forward, 6-foot-4 Nakia Sanford at center and Dales-Schuman at shooting guard.

Off the bench come Jackson (7.2 points a game), Melvin (5.4), backup point guard Kiesha Brown (career-high 5.1) and forward Aiysha Smith (4.9). Miller, who averaged 12.5 points last season, has been in a slump, but her numbers are starting to rise. She has boosted her scoring to 4.3 a game.

“Our practices are so competitive, I know [Adams’] job is difficult to see who he wants to start, actually,” Melvin said. “Hopefully, we’ll get it down to who we want to start and who are going to be our main two players coming off the bench. If it goes deep … we as players buy into the system and just come off the bench and do what we can do while we’re out there. Then the sky’s the limit for this team.”

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