Saturday, June 9, 2007

While the Washington Mystics have had a tough time transitioning through the events of this season, last night it appeared, at least for a little while, that things might be starting to come together.

Despite shooting 6.7 percent and scoring eight first-quarter points — their lowest scoring effort in the first quarter since a seven-point loss to Indiana last June 27 — the Mystics finally seemed to adapt to the fast pace interim coach Tree Rollins hoped could wear out opponents. Still, it wasn’t enough as Washington fell 74-69 to the Indiana Fever in front of 7,110 at Verizon Center.

Alana Beard’s two free throws with 4:41 left tied the game at 51-51, the first time the Mystics did not trail in the game. And for those remaining minutes and during the comeback effort, Washington used Rollins’ up-tempo approach.

Still, the rally doesn’t hide the fact that the Mystics are 0-7 and have a 10-game losing streak dating to their final regular-season loss and their first-round sweep in the playoffs against Connecticut last year.

Rollins, though, was able to look past the loss.

“You have to be proud of them the way they’re playing,” Rollins said. “They left everything on the court. They fought that team.”

Tamara James’ 3-pointer with 3:45 left tied the game for the second time at 60-60. But Fever forward Tamika Catchings answered with a 3-pointer, and Indiana never lost the lead again.

Rollins treated this week’s practice as what he described as a “playoff week.” He used five days of practice to prepare the Mystics for their new style, hoping their young legs combined with quick substitutions could wear out the Fever.

Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones thought beforehand that the scrimmages and cardiovascular work would help the Mystics once they stepped on the court.

It didn’t show as Washington’s eight points were outmatched by Catchings and Tamika Whitmore, who combined for 10 points in the first quarter.

Milton-Jones shot just 3-for-13.

“Maybe part of it is that we’re so anxious to get a win,” Mystics guard Nikki Teasley said. “I think that may be why we got off to such a confusing start.”

Last week, it was the Fever who couldn’t score as they didn’t hit a field goal against the Mystics for the first 13:32. The poor shooting overshadowed Beard, Nakia Sanford and Tamara James posting double-digits with 23, 13 and 10 points, respectively.

“Layups,” Rollins said of his team’s first-quarter problems. “We didn’t drive in right. We ran the plays we got to where we needed to be we just didn’t finish.”

In the third quarter, Teasley hit a 3-pointer to cut the Fever lead to 37-30 with 8:36 left. Monique Currie’s two free throws with 52 seconds left again brought Washington to within seven at 51-44, but the Mystics’ first-quarter drought made coming back much more difficult.

“Everything they’re throwing up is going in,” Rollins said after Tan White’s jumper increased the Fever’s lead to 50-38 with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

Everything the Mystics players threw up, on the other hand, missed the basket — until the fourth quarter. But that couldn’t erase the damage already done.

“I’m still proud of them,” Rollins said. “For seven games, we’ve been fighting hard. Once this [losing streak] breaks, we’ll continue to do the things we need to do.”

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