- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

For the Washington Mystics, the number 20 has become an anathema.

Four times in the past six years, the Mystics have lost at least that many games in a season. And if it’s not careful, Washington could make it five out of seven this year.

At 12-16, the Mystics sit in last place in the Eastern Conference, though they are only 1 games out of a playoff spot with six games to go. Tonight at MCI Center, Washington — without forward Chamique Holdsclaw, mysteriously absent because of “personal medical problems” — will try to keep its playoff hopes alive against the resurgent Sacramento Monarchs (15-13).

The Mystics haven’t won since beating Phoenix on Aug.1, though they didn’t play another game after that victory over the Mercury until Wednesday because of the Olympic break. Washington won two of three entering the break but has lost twice to the Indiana Fever since play resumed.

“We’ve worked on so many different things, and to me, the break hurt us because we were clicking as a group,” Mystics coach Michael Adams said. “We’ve just gotten out of sync.”

The Mystics have qualified for the WNBA playoffs just twice in seven seasons and have had only one winning season (17-15 in 2002).

“It’s up to each and every player to go out here and play with passion and play with heart and help each other out,” said rookie guard Alana Beard, who has become the Mystics’ primary scoring option in Holdsclaw’s absence. “I think we have enough people on this team that believe we can come back. We’re hard workers. We fight hard. The couple of games that we played might not have showed it, but deep down inside we really care.”

The games she referred to both were against the Fever. Washington lost 75-58 on Wednesday, then managed just 42 points in a 27-point loss in Indiana on Saturday.

“You can’t point fingers or blaming. You just have to fix it and get through with it,” said guard Stacey Dales-Schuman, who is the Mystics’ third-leading scorer at 8.1 points a game. “We’re trying to share the basketball. We want multiple players scoring for us.”

Scoring wouldn’t be as much of an issue with Holdsclaw, the WNBA’s third-leading scorer (19 points) and rebounder (8.3 rebounds), in the lineup.

“We haven’t stopped thinking that we [can get in the playoffs],” Dales-Schuman said. “That was one game against Indiana, who is a very good team. It was mental. … It’s all about mental right now. It’s all about your psyche at this point, and we just didn’t prepare mentally well enough as players.”

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