- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Washington Mystics ended the regular season on a roll, and they haven’t stopped now that it’s the postseason.

With contributions seemingly coming from everywhere and a stellar defensive effort, the Mystics won Game1 of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals decisively yesterday. Forward Chasity Melvin scored 17 points to pace four Mystics in double figures yesterday as Washington pounded the Connecticut Sun 67-59 before 13,263 at MCI Center.

The Mystics, who won seven of their last 11 regular-season games to finish 17-17, could wrap up the best-of-3 series tomorrow night when it shifts to Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. If necessary, Game3 is scheduled there Wednesday night.

“We just have a team here. That’s the beauty of basketball,” Melvin said of the Mystics, who continued to play well even though Chamique Holdsclaw is out for the season with an undisclosed physical ailment.

“When you have a team with everybody on the same page, then basketball is fun,” Melvin said. “I think we showed that on the court we’re having fun. We’re not trying to do anything more than we haven’t normally done. It’s not a one-man show, it’s not somebody taking bad shots, it’s not, ‘I need to do this because it’s the playoffs.’ We have to play together, and we understand that.”

The Sun had nobody inside who could defend the 6-foot-3 Melvin, who made five of 12 shots from the floor and seven of 10 from the free throw line and also contributed 11 rebounds.

Rookie guard Alana Beard scored 13 points with eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Guard Stacey Dales-Schuman scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, and forward Aiysha Smith added 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, including a 3-pointer from about 23 feet.

“Melvin, Beard, and Dales-Schuman particularly played well, and I thought the turning point was Aiysha Smith coming into the game and making big plays for them,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “[Smith has] been doing that for the last month for them. It’s nothing we were surprised about.”

This was about as complete a game as the Mystics can play. They held Connecticut scoring leader Nykesha Sales to a season-low four points on 1-for-9 shooting and outrebounded the Sun 44-32. Washington’s rebound total was a season high.

Sales, who came in as the WNBA’s seventh-best scorer at 15.2 points, was unable to contribute in other areas as well, finishing with just four rebounds, two assists and two steals. As a team, the Sun shot 35.6 percent (21-for-59).

“Whenever I did a lot [of moves], there were a couple people coming at me,” Sales said. “I know when I drove, it seemed like there were people running over to help. I didn’t take as many shots as I usually do. … I think they played some really good defense.”

Sun forward Asjha Jones, who played for the Mystics the last two seasons, erased a 12-point first-half deficit by herself. With her team trailing 24-12, Jones scored all 10 of her first-half points to enable the visitors to trail by just 30-27 at the break although the Sun made just five of 18 shots.

“It’s hard to win a playoff game if you shoot 35 percent and three starters combine for four of 23 from the field,” Thibault said. “That’s probably not going to win too many.”

This was the eighth time this season the Sun have scored in the 50s. They lost all eight games.

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