- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

The Washington Mystics’ bid for the playoffs is down to this: win and hope.

The Mystics, who have lost five consecutive games, no longer control their fate as they begin the final week of the regular season. Realistically, they need to sweep their final three games and have Detroit falter for them to make the postseason.

“We put ourselves in this position,” said Mystics guard Alana Beard, the usually upbeat All-Star who was in a sober mood after practice yesterday. “We had a chance to seal the playoffs, but we didn’t do it. We just have to win our next three games. I hate counting on other people to determine our destiny.”

The Mystics (14-17) have to gain two games on Detroit to earn the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington is in this precarious position in the wake of an 0-for-4 road trip, which ended Sunday with a lopsided loss against Detroit.

The teams will meet again Saturday in the regular-season finale at MCI Center, but that contest could be meaningless. The Mystics will be eliminated tonight if they lose to New York and Detroit wins at last-place Charlotte.

“The [offensive] execution is not there,” Beard said. “Everything we do is like in a rush. And defensively we don’t get stops. Other teams come down and score at will. It is a lack of communication, a lack of talking amongst us.”

The Shock (15-16) lead the Mystics by one game but own the tiebreaker because of their better conference record. The Mystics still can make the postseason if they win out while the Shock win no more than one or Washington wins two while Detroit goes 0-3.

The schedule favors the Shock, who play host to second-place Indiana on Thursday. Washington visits league-leading Connecticut on Friday before facing Detroit the next night. The Liberty come in with a five-game win streak.

The Mystics, who will record their seventh nonwinning season in their eight-year history, have been done in by poor defense. Opponents have shot better than 46 percent in the current losing streak, with three teams shooting more than 50 percent.

“We obviously haven’t developed the defensive individuals and the defensive team that we wanted to,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “Looking down the road, we are looking to bring in some people we know who are good defenders.”

The poor performances also may be the result of worn-down starters, who have played a lot of minutes because of an ineffective bench. Beard (20 points) was the only starter to score in double figures at Detroit, while the other four combined for 18 points on 3-for-21 shooting. Point guard Temeka Johnson missed all six of her shots, while center Chasity Melvin — the team’s most consistent player recently — was 1-for-9.

The Mystics went through a sluggish practice yesterday afternoon immediately after returning from Detroit. The bleary-eyed group will try to make one final playoff push starting tonight.

“It doesn’t look real good,” forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. “But there is a little bit of hope. All we can do is do our part.”

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