Sunday, June 1, 2008

For one quarter yesterday, the Washington Mystics showed how explosive their offense can be. The other three, however, they showed how flat they have been for most of the season.

The Mystics rallied from a 16-point third quarter deficit but fell short down the stretch as they dropped the final game of their homestand 70-59 to the Los Angeles Sparks at Verizon Center.

Lisa Leslie scored a game-high 17 points and rookie Candace Parker had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Sparks (3-1).

The Mystics (2-3) looked good at the start, making four of their first seven shots but then were plagued by poor shooting. They often settled for quick shots instead of going deep into their offensive sets and subsequently missed their next 15 shots from the field over 7:05 in a drought that carried over into the second quarter.

Coco Miller ended the dry spell with a jumper, but Washington could not recover its touch. It shot just 25 percent in the first half, making only nine shots.

Meanwhile, Leslie excelled. Displaying an array of post moves and occasionally stepping outside for a jump shot, the dynamic center showed why she is a three-time league MVP. Leslie paced the Sparks with 11 first-half points facing a lot of single coverage because the Mystics sent double teams relentlessly at Parker.

For the second time in as many games, the Mystics emerged from halftime playing much better. Leslie picked up her third foul early in the third quarter and Sparks coach Michael Cooper took his superstar out of the game.

With Leslie relegated to the bench, the Mystics took advantage. Trailing 47-31 with 5:51 remaining in the third, Washington found its offensive rhythm, going on a 17-2 run over the next 4:08 to cut Los Angeles’ lead to one. The Mystics turned every Los Angeles miss into an opportunity to run, which is when Washington is at its best.

“We did to them what they were doing to us. We attacked them,” Mystics guard Alana Beard said. “They don’t want to play defense, they packed the lane and we came down and made them play defense.”

A layup by Nakia Sanford gave the Mystics their first lead since the first quarter at 53-52 with 6:12 remaining in the game. But Parker, now playing point guard, answered on the Sparks’ ensuing possession, giving them a lead they would not relinquish.

In the end, the Sparks’ balance was too much for Washington. DeLisha Milton-Jones, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Raffaella Masciadri each scored 12 points to complement Leslie and Parker.

“Everyone else picked up and did their job, which is what we can’t afford to happen,” Beard said. “We can afford to have Leslie and Parker go off on us, but we can’t have the other three players in double digits.”

Monique Currie paced the Mystics with 15 points. Taj McWilliams-Franklin (14) and Sanford (10) also scored in double figures for the Mystics, who must now try to find a level of consistency before Tuesday’s game in Phoenix.

“If we can just bottle that third quarter for the rest of the season, that’s the way we want to play,” coach Tree Rollins said.

INDIANAPOLIS - Katie Smith scored 19 points and Detroit used a 13-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to beat Indiana.

Elaine Powell added a season-high 14 points for the Shock (5-1), who took a half-game lead over Connecticut for first place in the Eastern Conference.

MINNEAPOLIS - Seimone Augustus scored 22 points to lead four players in double-figures as undefeated Minnesota beat winless defending champion Phoenix.

Charde Houston had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Candice Wiggins had 17 points and 12 assists - the first career double-doubles for both Lynx rookies. Vanessa Hayden-Johnson added points 10 to help Minnesota extend the best start in franchise history.

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