- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not too often is a team critical of itself after a win, but that was the case Friday night for the Washington Mystics at Verizon Center.

Alana Beard scored 18 points, all in the second half, and Monique Currie added 17 as the Mystics pushed their winning streak to three with a 72-61 win over the Atlanta Dream.

Beard proved her worth to Washington’s offense. She played just six minutes in the first half because she picked up three fouls and the Mystics (5-7) matched a season-low with 22 first-half points. With Beard leading the charge in the second half, Washington scored 50 points.

“[The second] was probably one of the best halves we’ve played this season,” Beard said. “It was the best Mystics basketball. I don’t think we are, by any means, playing up to our potential, but we’re taking steps every day.”

Despite the win, much of the talk after the game focused on the Mystics’ dismal first half.

Although the Mystics have emphasized fixing their turnover problems in recent practices, they showed no signs of improvement. They committed 15 first-half turnovers. And when they hung on to the ball long enough to take a shot, the results weren’t there. With Beard relegated to the bench, Washington made 10 of its 33 shots in the first half.

“We came out and we didn’t set the tone,” Beard said. “We started the game with a turnover. The second half, that’s just us coming out with a sense of urgency and wanting to win. I don’t think we wanted to win in the first half.”

Despite their offensive woes, the Mystics trailed by one at halftime. The Dream’s 13 turnovers and 33.3 percent shooting in the first half offset Washington’s futility.

Mystics coach Tree Rollins said the Mystics’ sluggish play during the opening quarters perplexed him. He employed a fullcourt press at start of the second half to stimulate his team’s defense and increase its energy level.

“Two games in a row now we’ve had to have some heated conversation at halftime,” Rollins said. “We just have to stay focused. We’ve been very lucky to come back and get wins.”

Already leading by three, the Mystics opened up the fourth quarter with an 8-1 run to pull away from Atlanta. The Dream never got within five points the rest of the way.

Atlanta (0-12) is in danger of matching the worst losing streak in WNBA history. The 2002 Detroit Shock and 2006 Chicago Sky each dropped 13 straight.

The Mystics must now prepare for Tuesday’s game against visiting Phoenix, the highest scoring team in the WNBA. But it helps knowing they’re on their longest winning streak of the season.

“It feels good to win three in a row,” Beard said. “A couple of games we’ve had close games, and to know we can win close games, we really feel good about it.”

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