- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In a season with only five wins, every victory stands out for the Mystics, but none more than the last time they faced the Los Angeles Sparks. Washington pulled off an overtime comeback win, 89-85 in Los Angeles, after trailing by 24 points in the third quarter.

The win put the Mystics in the WNBA record books, giving them the largest second half comeback in league history.

“The last time we played, we beat them, so they have a lot to prove this time,” said Mystics center Nicky Anosike.

“We have to come out knowing that, and come out focused on this game. The biggest advantage we have is that they play without a center, so we have to take advantage of that,” Anosike said.

But even minus a true center, the Sparks have two of the best players in the league in Tina Thompson and Candace Parker starting at forward. Their third forward is former Mystic DeLisha Milton-Jones, also a three time WNBA All-Star.

The win in Los Angeles came without Parker, who was out with a torn lateral meniscus, but returned to the team Aug. 16. Parker’s presence will make a difference, but Anosike believes they have to think positively.

“We’ve been going through ups and downs all season, mostly downs, but we just have to try and pull one out and hopefully that will lead us to a five-game winning streak. That how we have to think,” Anosike said.

The Sparks (11-15) average 78 points, yet give up 82. The Mystics (5-20) average 71 points and give up 77 but believe that disrupting the Sparks on defense could be the key to victory.

“Last time we played them out in L.A., we won. But now that they have Candace back, they’re going to be gunning for us,” said rookie forward Victoria Dunlap.

“As a team, we have to come out strong, start with our defense, and make sure we’re getting stops. That will really help us make better offensive plays, and get better shots,” Dunlap said.

As a rookie, Dunlap doesn’t always see a lot of playing time, but stresses the importance of keeping the energy level up, whether on the floor or the sidelines.

“We have to make sure everybody’s talking, that there’s energy coming from the bench, and that we keep encouraging our teammates on the court. You just try to find something positive in every game, even in a loss,” Dunlap said.

Point guard Kelly Miller believes the best way to defeat the Sparks again is to set the tone on the defensive end.

“They have a lot of height on the perimeter, so we have to play our game, and at the same time take them out of their rhythm. That will be important for us,” Miller said.

In her 11th WNBA season, Miller has seen her share of difficult seasons. Before joining the Mystics this offseason, Miller played with five other teams, spending last season with Atlanta where twin sister Coco now plays.

“I’ve had other tough years where we didn’t win too many games, but I see improvements with this team. We’ve improved as the season has gone one, so that been a positive note for us. In the future, that will just make us stronger,” Miller said.

“We just have to continue to have confidence in ourselves in our abilities and our game plan; just come out and play hard and give it all we have. Thats all we can ask for right now.”



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