Tree Rollins knows now isn”t the time to gloat. The Washington Mystics are on a four game-winning streak, but five regular season games are left.
After each practice, Rollins reminds his players of their goal of making the playoffs.
“We’re keeping it in the family,” the Mystics say as they break their huddle, meaning they want to keep their destiny in their own hands.
Washington enters today’s game at Seattle holding a two-game lead over the New York Liberty in the race for the Eastern Conference’s fourth and final playoff spot. The last-place Chicago Sky trails the Mystics by 2½ games.
The Mystics are coming off an 80-75 victory at Los Angeles on Thursday night in which guard Alana Beard scored 22 points. In that game, Washington rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter. The Mystics also won at San Antonio to start their four-game road trip.
If the Mystics continue their surge, they would be only the second team in the WNBA’s 11-year history to make the playoffs after a 0-8 start. The 2001 Charlotte Sting rebounded from a 1-10 start to reach the WNBA Finals.
“We set a goal to get enough wins to get into the playoffs,” Rollins said. “We haven’t accomplished that yet. After practice, that’s our rallying cry. I think the players have bought into it and it gives them something to shoot for.”
Washington began its turnaround after a few things happened in May. First, the Mystics traded center Chasity Melvin to Chicago for Monique Currie. Then Richie Adubato stepped down as coach in protest of the trade and out of frustration with not having a contract extension.
But the Mystics, then 1-9, followed by winning three of four road games. Rollins, who took over for Adubato, implemented a transition offense and Washington has since averaged 91.2 points a game.
“We have heart and determination,” said Beard, who is two points shy of reaching 2,000 for her career. “We have warriors on this team who want to win and do what’s necessary to make the playoffs. We tend to play better when we feel the world is against us.”
But Rollins knows the key is for the Mystics to sustain their momentum.
“We try to remember what our goal is,” he said. “Even though we have our foot in the door now over Chicago and New York, we can’t look back.”