- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Phoenix Mercury have the WNBA’s most potent offense, which plays the game at a dizzying pace and is led by two of the league’s top three scorers.

That run-and-gun style simply proved too much for the Washington Mystics, who fell to the Mercury 96-83 yesterday.

The Mystics’ home record dropped to 8-3 in front of a raucous, high-pitched crowd of 15,103 made up mostly of youth campers at Verizon Center — the largest home crowd of the season.

The day wasn’t all bad for Washington. Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones made an early return to the court after an MCL sprain June 17 that was supposed to sideline her for six to eight weeks.

“She brings so many things to the table,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “I’m very surprised she is back so quickly. In one way I am surprised because these injuries take longer, but in another way I am not, because she has a history of recovering fast. … She has a high pain tolerance and is a very hard worker. I know she has a tremendous desire to get back on the court.”

Milton-Jones, who sported a protective knee brace, recorded nine points and three assists in 17:48 of playing time. She also did not shy from contact; Milton-Jones got a technical foul in the fourth quarter for elbowing Mercury forward Penny Taylor in the face.

“It was difficult getting out there on the court because I felt like this was my first time playing all year long,” said Milton-Jones, who won two titles with the Los Angeles Sparks. “I felt like this was training camp and I had just got traded from L.A.”

But Milton-Jones’ presence could not spark the Mystics, who struggled after a slow first-half start.

With 6:45 remaining in the first half, a pair of Jennifer Lacy free throws gave the Mercury a 12-point lead.

The main catalyst for Phoenix’s fast start was guard Kelly Miller, who had 15 first-half points and shot 5-for-7 from the floor. Miller, who finished with a season-high 22 points and eight rebounds, had the Mystics seeing double. Miller’s twin sister, Washington guard Coco, scored just four points.

“Kelly Miller was on fire, and we knew she was capable of doing that,” Adubato said.

Adubato’s team succeeded in shutting down the league’s third most productive scorer, Cappie Pondexter. Pondexter entered the game averaging 21.4 points, but she only posted eight yesterday.

But Phoenix’s offensive firepower still was too strong for the Mystics as Taylor tied for a team high with 22 points and the Mercury’s bench notched 16. Diana Taurasi, the league’s second leading scorer, finished with 18 points and five assists. Phoenix is 7-0 when scoring 90 or more points.

Although she posted only two fourth-quarter points, Alana Beard led the Mystics with 23. Chasity Melvin led the team in rebounds with 12.

Mystics forward Latasha Byears was scratched before the game because of foot tendinitis. She is listed as day-to-day.

Mercury guard Jennifer Derevjanik, who played at George Mason, scored two points.

Lynx 90, Sky 82

MINNEAPOLIS — Amber Jacobs scored a career-high 24 points to lead Minnesota past Chicago.

Seimone Augustus and Svetlana Abrosimova each scored 18 for the Lynx, who finished 3-2 in their five-game homestand.

Sting 73, Shock 67

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Sheri Sam and Tangela Smith each scored 15 points, and Tammy Sutton-Brown had a season-high 12 rebounds to lead Charlotte past Detroit.

Charlotte (6-16), winners of three straight, hadn’t won in Detroit since July 3, 2003.

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