"They're Not Bad on Purpose."
At this evening's pre-game chalk talk, Mystics GM Angela Taylor fielded the always predictable question about officiating in the WNBA. "They're not bad on purpose," she told the fans in attendance. But at the conclusion of tonight's game, we were really left wondering.
The BasketCases have seen plenty of interesting officiating over the years of following the Mystics. Most of the time we conclude that, yes, it's bad, but it's often kind of random. Bad calls, missed calls that go against the Mystics; bad calls, missed calls that go against our opponent. It usually balances out . . . more or less. That's why in years of writing this blog, we rarely complain about the officiating.
But tonight was one of those nights when, from tip-off to final buzzer, we kept shaking our heads in disbelief. How could three officials, all on the same night, get so many calls just flat-out wrong? We don't know, but they did.
The Mystics lost to the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Fever, 82-70. 12 points ties the largest loss margin for Washington this season. But make no mistake, this was a much closer game, despite the final score. The Mystics logged 40 minutes of intense, competitive basketball. But sometimes, going 5 on 8, it's hard to play your best game.
For the third game in a row, Lindsey Harding led the team in scoring, with 17 points -- plus 6 assists, 5 boards, 2 steals and 1 block! She's playing like a WNBA All-Star even if she was passed over for a spot on this season's ASG roster. Crystal Langhorne and Alana Beard also finished in double figures, wih 15 and 13 points, respectively.
There's no denying the Fever are a very good team. Before losing to Connecticut on Sunday, they had won 11 in a row. To their credit, they hit some big 3-pointers when they needed to and made their free throws down the stretch. All Star Tamika Catchings (named after St. Tamika, Patron Saint of Basketball Officials) scored a game-high 28 points and hit all 14 of her free throw attempts. (FYI to the fans who reported a burning smell emanating from the tunnel leading to the officials' locker room: that was nothing to worry about. BasketCases' sources have confirmed that it was simply Cameron, Kevin and Marat -- tonight's referees -- lighting votive candles as they prayed to St. Tamika before the game and during half-time.)
With tonight's loss, the Mystics are again at .500, with a record of 7-7. Fortunately, they don't have long to wait for another chance to get back to a winning percentage. The Chicago Sky (including Kristi Toliver) make their second appearance of the season at the Phone Booth this Thursday at 7 PM for a nationally-televised game being shown on ESPN2.
Between now and then, the BasketCases are going to light some votive candles of their own, praying that Cameron, Kevin and Marat are occupied elsewhere Thursday evening.