- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Washington Mystics took an early blow to the body in Game2 of the WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals last night and never recovered.

The host Connecticut Sun sank five of their first six shots on the way to an 80-70 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The win evens the best-of-3 series at 1-1 with the decisive Game3 here tomorrow night.

Connecticut took an 8-0 lead in the first 1:20 and led by 19-3 just 4:36 into the game. The lead grew as large as 19 in the second half.

“Connecticut set the tone from the beginning,” Washington rookie Alana Beard said. “We allowed them to do that. We weren’t focused at the beginning, and we didn’t attack. We were soft, and the score was very indicative of that.”

Sun guard Lindsay Whalen led all scorers with 21 points, making 15 of 16 at the free throw line. Nykesha Sales added 13 points, while Wendy Palmer-Daniel and former Mystic Asjha Jones had 12 points each.

Washington, which shot 39 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers, was led by Tamicha Jackson off the bench with 17 points, which tied her season high. Beard had 15 points but had a rough night shooting, making only four of 13 from the floor.

“Life is better when you shoot the basketball better,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We got the same shots we did in Washington, but this time they went in. Everyone feels good, and I’m a lot smarter coach.”

Washington had five turnovers in the first five minutes.

“We got a little rattled in the backcourt, and our players got tentative and wanted to pass,” Mystics coach Michael Adams said. “It was hot potato at the beginning of the game.”

The Mystics made a 13-4 run of their own to cut the lead to four after Stacey Dales-Schuman scored on a fast break with 6:04 left in the half. But Jones had six of her 10 first-half points in an 8-0 surge that allowed the Sun to extend the lead to 12.

For the game, Washington had only six assists compared to 17 turnovers.

“Take nothing away from Connecticut, but we beat ourselves,” Beard said.

Adams concurred.

“We didn’t play the way we are capable of,” he said. “We settled for jump shots, while Connecticut drove to the basket. We were tentative all over the floor. Six assists isn’t the way we’re going to win basketball games.”

Three times in the later stages of the contest, Washington cut the lead to 11, but Connecticut responded each time. Dales-Schuman drained a 3-pointer with 2:28 left to trim the lead to 73-64, but that was as close as the Mystics got.

Note — Palmer-Daniel and Indiana’s Kelly Miller shared the 2004 WNBA Most Improved Player award, it was announced yesterday.

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