- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perhaps it was the timely return of forward Monique Currie, or coach Trudi Lacey’s tweaking of the starting lineup. But whatever the cause, the results were positive as the Washington Mystics napped a nine-game losing streak with an 85-81 win over the Atlanta Dream at Verizon Center on Thursday night.

Currie entered the game with two minutes left in the first quarter and received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic crowd of Mystics fans who clearly missed her presence on this court this season. Currie played 9 1/2 minutes and scored eight points on 2-of-4 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

“It was a total team effort for us tonight. Obviously, it was great to have Mo back. She has such presence about her, such energy,” Lacey said.

“She’s such a fierce competitor and I think she gives our team confidence,” Lacey said.

Lacey went with a starting lineup of Jasmine Thomas and Kelly Miller in the backcourt, Crystal Langhorne and Kerri Gardin at forward, and DeMya Walker at center. Nicky Anosike and Marissa Coleman have both struggled. Coleman played only eight minutes and did not enter the game until late in the third quarter.

“What I want to do is look at some different lineups, different combinations of people playing together and see who plays well together and what we can do.” Lacey said of the changes.

“We’ve been working on some different defensive schemes, and like I’ve said all along, we’re working on progressing as a group.”

The changes, including having Currie back, were enough to pull out the win.

“Jas [Jasmine Thomas] played a very good floor game. She’s really beginning to have a feel for what we need to do. Matee [Ajavon] came off the bench and was solid for us. She’s one of the most improved players in the league this year,” Lacey said.

Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Jasmine Thomas added 12 points, four rebounds and five assists.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Currie said of her return. “It wasn’t something that we were pushing for, but if presented itself, were going to take advantage of it. Once the doctors cleared me, then it was up to me whether or not I was ready to play, if I felt like I could keep up and contribute a little bit.”

The Mystics’ training staff plans to limit Currie to three or four minutes per quarter for the rest of the season.

“I feel pretty good. I’m still trying to get a feel for the game, go up and down the court and see what I can do,” Currie said.

“There’s a difference between playing and practicing. It [practice] prepares you a little bit, but it’s not the same when you’re out on the court. I know I’m not in tip-top shape, so it’s a good thing that my minutes are limited,” Currie said.

She concedes it’s been tough to watch her teammates struggle this season without her.

“I think we had high expectations for this year, but things did not work out the way we wanted them to. I tried to help where I could from the bench,” Currie said. “I just hope to be a presence. Even though we’re not going to make the playoffs this year, it doesn’t mean we’re going to give up, or we’re going to let everybody get easy wins over us.

“We’re going to fight to the end, and maybe spoil a few team’s playoff chances. It’s not over, in the sense of competing, and I always want to compete.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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