Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Washington Mystics have fixed most of their deficient areas — rebounding, check; defense, check; 3-point shooting, well two out of three isn’t bad.

The Mystics still are trying to find their rhythm and are showing signs that long-range shots will start falling regularly.

After a credible 4-for-11 shooting performance from behind the arc in Thursday’s 76-60 rout of the struggling San Antonio Silver Stars, the Mystics are no longer the WNBA’s worst 3-point shooting team. They are shooting 29 percent from 3-point range, slightly better than the Silver Stars (28 percent).

Mystics first-year coach Michael Adams, who was one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history, doesn’t see long jumpers as an integral part of the offense.

“I’ve told our players, ‘Hey, I’d rather attack the basket first,’” Adams said. “We’re concentrating on getting the ball inside. If it’s inside out, that’s fine. If we have shots on the outside, then we shoot it, as long as the ball goes inside first.”

The Mystics, 27 of 93 on 3-pointers this season, take 10 3-pointers a game, which means they aren’t forcing shots.

“We’re not rushing to shoot 3-point shots,” Adams said. “A lot of our 3-point shots were in desperation because we’re coming from behind a lot. We don’t have a lot of consistent 3-point shooters. We have players that can shoot it, but they need time to set their feet to shoot them.”

The Mystics (4-5) will have to count on their outside shooters today when they face the last-place Connecticut Sun (4-7) in Uncasville, Conn., in the first of four straight road games. The smallish Sun might counteract the Mystics’ size advantage by playing zone.

At least that is what the Sun did the last time the teams met — a 72-63 Connecticut comeback victory on June4 at MCI Center. The Sun rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit as the Mystics struggled from the outside.

“We have players that can hit outside shots, but Stacey [Dales-Schuman] is our 3-pointer shooter,” said Chamique Holdsclaw, who has made 37.5 percent of her 3-pointers. “She struggled kind of early but she is coming around. She’s taking her time and the ball is coming to her.”

Dales-Schuman must keep defenses honest and in order to do that she has to improve on her 25 percent shooting from behind the arc — she’s made nine of 36 3-pointers. Last season, she set the team record for most 3-pointers when she hit 57. Coming into this season, her third season, she was a 37.1 percent 3-point career shooter.

In the offseason Dales-Schuman, who is a TV analyst for ESPN’s women’s college basketball coverage, worked on her shot from behind the NBA’s 3-point arc. The WNBA moved back its 3-point line to the international distance of 20 feet, 61/4 inches this season.

“I definitely need to hit shots. I’m not going to lie about that, for this team to be successful, but it all has to come within the flow,” Dales-Schuman said. “When our inside game is working our outside game is going to work inevitably. It’s all about getting in a rhythm and feeling the spots [on the floor] and getting clean looks. The other day in practice we worked on crisp passes to the shooter at the right time. Just that mind recognition by working on it in practice, has sort of trickled into the games and it’s going to get better.”

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