- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

On Fan Appreciation Day, the Washington Mystics gave their fans something to smile about for at least one evening. However, that didn’t make up for another disappointing season.

The Mystics defeated the Detroit Shock 76-67 in a meaningless season finale last night before an announced 9,011 at MCI Center, but for the fifth time in eight seasons Washington will miss the WNBA playoffs. A 34-point loss to the Connecticut Sun the previous night eliminated the Mystics from postseason contention.

If nothing else, the Mystics ended by winning a game they easily could have dismissed. Three-point specialist Laurie Koehn came off the bench and tied her career high with 15 points, making five of seven 3s as Washington finished with a 16-18 record.

Now Mystics owner Sheila Johnson has some decisions to make. Does she retain coach Richie Adubato for next season? The Mystics lost six of their final eight games in a heated playoff race, and Adubato had just a one-year deal.

“We lost a lot of close games this year that would have made the difference,” Adubato said of only the second losing season in his seven-year WNBA coaching career. “We owe it to the fans and we owe it to ourselves to understand that when we look in the mirror every night [we have to know] we laid it out on the floor.”

If Johnson decides to make a change, the replacement would be the Mystics’ ninth coach in nine seasons. Johnson didn’t hire Adubato and has no allegiance to him.

The roster also needs a major low-post overhaul. The team lacks size and has 6-foot-3 Chasity Melvin, a natural power forward, playing out of position at center. The Shock outscored the Mystics 34-16 in the paint, easily illustrating the deficiency. The Shock’s backups posted up the Mystics’ starters at will.

“We underachieved this season, and unfortunately sometimes that’s just how it goes,” Melvin said.

After finishing fifth in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference, the Mystics will get another high first-round draft pick. Washington will have the fourth or fifth overall pick in next June’s WNBA Draft, based on inverted order of finish.

At least the Mystics proved they could beat the Shock’s reserves. Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer held out starters Deanna Nolan (15.9 points), forward Swin Cash (5.7 points), center Ruth Riley (7.6 points), and forward Cheryl Ford (9.5 points and a league-leading 9.8 rebounds) for the upcoming first-round playoff series against the Sun.

“I didn’t want to get someone hurt in a meaningless game,” said Laimbeer, whose team finished 16-18 and had the tiebreaker advantage on the Mystics. “We have a good bench, and they played hard.”

Leading by one point with 13:36 left, the Mystics broke open the game against the Shock bench with a 15-0 run. Koehn nailed two 3s during the spurt, which ended at 8:35 with the Mystics in command 67-51.

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