Monday, May 24, 2004

Heading into the season, the Washington Mystics seemed to be among the most improved teams in the WNBA.

The Mystics (1-1) can further than notion tonight when they meet the defending Western Conference champions, the Los Angeles Sparks (0-1), at MCI Center.

“We’re taking baby steps right now, but if we can beat this team, then we are on our way,” Mystics coach Michael Adams said. “We hope to be very competitive. We can gain confidence by beating good teams.”

Throughout their seven-year history, teams from the Western Conference have been a nightmare for the Mystics. Washington has a 17-46 record against teams from the West, including a 3-8 mark against the Sparks. It does not have a winning record against any of the conference’s teams.

Unfortunately for Washington, the Sparks figure to be motivated for tonight’s game. Los Angeles is coming off an embarrassing 93-67 season-opening loss to the Seattle Storm after going 3-0 in the preseason.

“I’d like to say they came in and had a bad game,” Adams said of the Sparks’ stunning defeat.

It’s hard to find a season preview that didn’t have the Sparks repeating as Western Conference champions. Los Angeles is led by 6-foot-5 center Lisa Leslie, who was the only other player in the league besides Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw who averaged a double-double last season.

Meanwhile, the Mystics regrouped after dropping their season opener at home to the Charlotte Sting on Saturday with a tense 68-67 win Sunday at Indiana. Holdsclaw followed up a missed jumper by Chasity Melvin with 10.7 seconds left to give the Mystics the lead for good.

While the Mystics are happy about the win, their inability to rebound in the first two games has tempered some of the enthusiasm. The Sting pounded the Mystics 33-24 on the boards, and the Fever outrebounded Washington 38-30.

“We’ve tried to adjust [rebounding] in the offseason and the preseason,” Adams said. “It’s going to be a concern all year. They need to learn to box out and get the basketball.”

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