Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Mystics Arrived at the Target Center in Minneapolis last night -- in sole possession of the WNBA's longest losing streak (8 games) -- to play the red-hot, league-leading Lynx. Not surprising, that losing streak was extended to 9, as Minny routed Washington, 73-56. Also not surprising, Crystal Langhorne (13 points) was the Mystics' leading scorer in yet another losing effort.

The only real surprise last night was that GM/HC Trudi shook up her starting line-up -- giving the nod to Gardin, Thomas, and Walker in place of Coleman, Miller, and Anosike. That change made watching the first half of the game marginally more interesting, that and the fact that the game was fairly close for most of the 20 minutes played before halftime. But the second half was a different story. The Mystics completely fell apart, scoring just 6 points in the third quarter. Ouch. In the final period -- mostly playing against Minny's bench -- the Mystics were somewhat more respectable, putting up 17 points (versus Minny's 20).

The Mystics' 9-game losing streak is not only their longest of this season, it's also their longest since the Vortex of Doom season of 2008. Who can forget that season of despair? It was horrible. But there was a silver lining; that abysmal season finally brought about real and positive change to the Mystics in the form of Angela Taylor and Julie Plank. (We keep looking for a silver lining to this abysmal season . . . but all we can see at the moment are more dark clouds.)

About the only thing we enjoyed last night about the Minny game was that Alan Horton, the Minny announcer, repeatedly commented on how successful Angela and Julie were in Washington. Although Horton was off-camera, you could almost see him scratching his head in bewilderment, trying to make sense of why they are no longer with the Mystics. (In terms of bewilderment, Alan, you're not alone.)

It's hard to believe, but the Mystics (5-24) still have 5 more "garbage-time" games to play this season. How discouraging it must be for the players. And we know it's discouraging for Mystics' fans. The Mystics' next game is at home on Thursday against the Atlanta Dream. The Dream have won 8 of their last 10 games, including consecutive victories over the Eastern Conference-leading Fever. Atlanta, which got off to a slow start this season, is seeking to solidify its claim on the fourth and final playoff spot in the East, and possibly move up to 3rd or even 2nd place. In other words, Atlanta is playing for something, while the Mystics are playing for . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today was the Mystics' annual Breast Health Awareness game, and many of the fans in the arena were breast cancer survivors. The BCs and the rest of the fans in attendance only managed to survive an earthquake and a hurricane this week, something that pales by comparison to the challenges faced by those other survivors.

On court, however, the Mystics (despite another monster game from Crystal Langhorne . . . 27 points and 12 rebounds!) could not manage to survive the Phoenix Mercury, losing 86-79.

The Mystics have now dropped to 5-23. Their losing streak of 8 games is their longest of the season, and is currently the longest losing streak in the league. The Tulsa Shock not only snapped their losing streak earlier this week with a win over L.A., but, shockingly, followed that up today with a victory over the Connectcut Sun. This means that the Mystics are now the only team in the WNBA that has yet to win consecutive games. With only 6 games left, Washington may also be running out of time and chances to erase that ignominious distinction.

The Mystics' "reported attendance" for this afternoon's game was 11,614. Those of us actually in the arena would guess the number actually in attendance at a fraction of that. (Hurricanes, losing seasons, and unwarranted coaching changes do tend to depress attendance.) Perhaps the front office was counting all those pink flyers on the many thousands of empty seats. Or maybe they multiplied the number of nuns garbed in blue and gray habits, who filled the Courtside Club today, by a factor of 100 . . . or maybe 250.

The Mystics now travel out to Minnesota to face the Lynx on Tuesday night. The Lynx are enjoying a franchise-record setting season, having broken the 20-win-game barrier this summer for the very first time. Today, they locked up first place in the West. We know how good that feels. (What a difference a year makes.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garbage Time

When the Mystics lost to LA on Tuesday, they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, yet they still had 8 games left to play, nearly a quarter of the season. That's an embarrassingly early out for Washington. There's no good way to say this (and it may sound a little crude), but for all intents and purposes, the rest of the Mystics' season is garbage time . . . a bunch of essentially meaningless games.

Last night in Chicago the Mystics lost the first of those meaningless games, falling to the Sky, 80-67.

In this situation, some coaches might use these games to experiment a bit. Gain something positive from an unfortunate situation. They might give rookies and bench players more opportunities to play. They might experiment with some different starting line-ups or combinations. When games don't mean anything, what better time to try something new? Let's face it, the Mystics wouldn't be in this situation if what they had done during the meaningful part of this season had been successful.

But last night we saw the same old, same old from GM/HC Trudi. The same starting line-up; the same veterans playing big minutes (even though the game had turned into a rout); and the same rookie riding the pine for 39 of the game's 40 minutes. The same script the Mystics followed last Sunday against the Fever and last Tuesday against the Sparks was repeated again last night against Chicago.

As TV commentator and expert analyst Debbie Antonelli noted at the start of the Mystics' game against Indy last Sunday, the Mystics had only won 5 games in the entire season (as of that date, and as of now), and yet Trudi had used only two starting lineups all summer (then and now). And with Lang missing several games due to her bad back, one change in the starting 5 was a necessity, not a choice. The implication of Antonelli's remark was obvious -- if what you're doing isn't working, try something new.

Interestingly, new is what we saw from Sky Coach Pokey Chatman last night. With her team fighting to stay alive in their quest for their first ever playoff berth, Pokey made some adjustments to her starting lineup, and the ultimate result was a blowout win and a season shut-out of the Mystics, 4-0.

We also saw some new -- and very interesting -- behavior from the Sky coaching staff during a time out. After watching the Sky give back its entire 15-point lead midway through the third quarter (at which point the score was tied at 49), a visibly furious Pokey called a timeout. First she threw some paper in disgust, and then she and her coaching staff walked away from their team and did not speak to the players for the entire break in play. For the Sky players, it really was a "timeout." And did they ever get the message! Oh yes, loud and clear. When play resumed, the Sky went on an 8-0 run and never looked back.

Meanwhile, for the Mystics it was business as usual. Lang (despite a tricky back) continued to play lots of minutes. (Lang actually leads the league in average minutes played per game at 34.8! Matee is number nine.) In last night's garbage time blowout loss, Lang played 34 minutes. By contrast, Trudi's number one draft pick, Victoria Dunlap, has hardly been playing enough to break a sweat. Last night was no exception. Trudi finally put her in with 1:12 left to play. What was the point of that? How much learning can be gained by a rookie in that brief appearance in the garbage time of a blow-out? We have to wonder how Victoria is feeling right now about her WNBA debut season.

At the start of this year, Trudi made rebuilding the team with youth a point of emphasis for the season. In practically every post-game presser (even now) she reiterates that the Mystics' youth and inexperience play a major role in the team's struggles. Yet, as the BCs watch game after game, except for Jasmine, we're hard-pressed to identify any youthful or inexperienced players on the floor.

With last night's game being the first real garbage-time game of the season, we thought that might change. What better time to give your number one draft pick some actual in-game experience? What better time perhaps to try a new starting combo? But nothing changed, and now we don't expect it to.

The Mystics' loss last night was their 7th in a row, a season high, dropping them to 5-22. Phoenix (a team still very much in the midst of a meaningful playoff race) is the next scheduled opponent for the Mystics. Nakia Sanford and her new teammates on the Mercury survived a long, crowded, and uncomfortable trip by Amtrak to DC last night. So they're here -- despite Irene -- and the 4 PM game at the Phone Booth tomorrow (Sunday) is still scheduled to tip-off as planned.

* * * * *

As we write this, the first minor gusts of wind and bands of rain from Hurricane Irene have arrived in the DC area. We hope that, by now, all our readers have secured their garbage cans and anything else that could get blown away. Let's hope everyone in Irene's path stays safe and dry. The BCs have been lugging sandbags, filling water bottles and buckets, charging cellphones, Kindles and iPads. Flashlights and candles are strategically placed around the house. And, perhaps most important of all, we've stocked up on non-refrigerated essentials like peanut butter, canned tuna, bread, cookies, crackers, nuts, granola bars, and, of course, Nutella. How are you all doing?

Take good care, everyone! We'll catch up with you (if we have power) once we all say Goodnight, Irene.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tumbling Down

What a day. Tuesday started off with a root canal for Matee Ajavon, followed by an early afternoon Earthquake that sent thousands of people all over the DMV scurrying out of office buildings, Metro stations, museums, and monuments. And all this was quickly followed by the gut-wrenchingly terrible news of Pat Summitt's pre-Alzheimer's dementia diagnosis (*see links below). So should we be surprised that the Mystics' day ended badly, with yet another tumble down the standings . . . this time from an overtime loss to the visiting LA Sparks, 86-82? No, nothing surprises us anymore.

With their 21st loss (their 6th in a row, a season high), the Mystics have now been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Not that any Mystics fans, this late in the season, expected anything different. But now it's official. The Mystics' streak of play-off berths ends at two: 2009: yes. 2010: yes. 2011: no. All that remains this season for the Mystics is to play for pride.

Frankly, as we sat there in an almost empty arena watching last night's game (reported attendance 8,441), it was hard to understand how the Mystics could lose yet another close, winnable game, at home no less, to a struggling team. The BCs have never claimed to be great basketball minds, but that doesn't mean we weren't at times scratching our heads over some of GM/HC Trudi's substitutions. For example, in the first quarter, we wondered why Marissa Coleman was sent to the bench just after (following a bumpy start) she seemed to find her groove. Then later, Kelly Miller seemed to have a hot hand from beyond the arc, hitting two big 3-pointers midway through the 4th Quarter. Yet, in the final minute of regulation, Kelly was parked on the bench, where she remained for most of the OT period. Less than a minute after re-entering the game (at the 2:00 mark), Kelly nailed her 3rd three to give the Mystics a short-lived OT lead. (For the record, Victoria Dunlap was again a DNP; we're beginning to think GM/HC Trudi has given up on her first round draft pick.)

The BCs kinda feel like yesterday's was the second earthquake we've experienced in the last year. After the October massacre, Mystics fans (the BCs included) felt like the earth moved under our feet. We were completely thrown off balance by the decision of Sheila and her cohorts that GM Angela and HC Julie no longer figured in the Team's plans. And then we were rocked again by the aftershocks of Lindsey and Katie deciding that they no longer wanted to play for such a franchise. But even after all that bad news, we didn't anticipate that the Mystics would tumble down all the way from first to worst in the East. Even we couldn't imagine things being this bad.

There are so many people to feel sorry for here. We feel sorry for the long-time, long-suffering Mystics fans. And we really feel sorry for the players. How can we not feel for Crystal Langhorne, who's proven herself to be a consummate professional and competitor, carrying the Mystics on her (aching) back all season. Last night, she played all 45 minutes, put up 28 points, pulled down 9 boards, dished out 3 assists . . . and still her team lost.

Ironically, the Mystics' front office began their season ticket renewal campaign last night. Good luck with that.

* * * * * *
*Links to articles about Pat Summitt: Here, here, here, here and here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It Had To Be Hard for the Mystics to put last night's loss behind them. It had to be even harder to have to play the 2nd half of a back-to-back . . . about 21 hours after that devastating defeat. And to make matters worse, the Mystics had to travel from Washington to Indianapolis the day of the game.

Is it any surprise that the Mystics came out flat? No, at least not to the BCs. A 14-2 Indy run to open the game? No, not surprising either. Overall, a pretty bad performance by Washington (on the road) against the conference-leading Fever . . . ending with another loss, 83-51. Nope, nothing surprising about that.

About the only thing that did surprise us (although by now, this late in the season, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised) is why the Mystics' first-round draft pick, Victoria Dunlap, played only 4 minutes in what was obviously going to be an Indy blow-out. Is she not in GM/Coach Trudi's plans for next season? Because if she is, this seems a strange way to develop young talent.

Anyway, all in all a very tough weekend for Lang, Matee, DeMya (whose daughter starts kindergarten tomorrow!) and all the Mystics players (and their fans).

Assuming the Mystics fly back tonight, the good news is that they will have one whole day at home before they face the (struggling) LA Sparks on Tuesday at the Phone Booth. Travel safely.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just When the BasketCases Thought the Mystics were finally gonna win a close one, the Un-Believeable happens, and the Mystics lose to the visiting Chicago Sky, 71-70.

We're still slapping ourselves upside the head, trying to make sense of how tonight's game ended. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory! If you Google that phrase, don't be surprised if a video of the last few seconds of this game pops up . . . it ought to.

OK, so here's what happened: the Mystics go up by 3 points with 20 seconds left in the game. Chicago ball, and the Sky are clearly looking for a 3-pointer, but the Mystics do a good job of defending the arc. So with only 4 seconds remaining in the game, they settle for a Sylvia Fowles 2-point lay-up. Mystics ball; Mystics lead by 1 point. The Sky are then forced to intentionally foul Matee Ajavon. The bad news is that she missed the first, then intentionally missed the second. The good news is that Chicago is out of time outs, and with only 2.5 seconds left on the clock they must go the full length of the court! A couple more seconds of "D" and this one belongs to the Mystics. The Phone Booth fans are cheering, the Mystics bench is all smiles.

But then the Un-Believable happens. The Sky inbound the ball. It ends up in the hands of Epiphanny Prince, who (running full speed down court) launches a long, desperation, 3-point attempt from a couple of steps past the half-court line. Does it go in? NO! It's blocked . . . cleanly, by Nicky Anosike, as time expires.

But WAIT!!! Was that a whistle? Yes, it was! But it was a clean block! Yes, it was. BUT, the replay showed that it wasn't Nicky who fouled Piph. No, it was Matee, coming from behind, who appeared to have have reached out and made contact as Prince was launching her shot. So yes, that was the refs' whistle you heard. And yes, they awarded 3 shots to Prince, and put 0.7 seconds back on the clock.

Of course, Piph steps to the line and makes #1 (scored tied at 70), then #2 (Chicago up by one), and then she intentionally misses #3 to run out those final .7 seconds. GAME OVER. Mystics lose #19.

What can we say about a game that ends like that? It looked like Trudi had a few choice words for tonight's officiating crew as they left the court. We don't know what she said, but we probably wouldn't print it here if we did (children might be reading.)

Another unbelieveable loss. Another unbelievable chapter in an unbelieveable season.

And tonight was just the first half of a back-to-back. The Mystics have to try to put this one behind them, and grab a flight to Indianapolis to face the conference-leading Fever tomorrow. That game tips off at 6 PM, and will be shown on NBA TV. No matter what happens, the ending of that one can't be any crazier than tonight's. Just not possible.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not What We Expected

The league-leading Minnesota Lynx came into the Phone Booth tonight on the heels of an embarrassing loss on Tuesday up in Connecticut. So we really expected to see them all fired up, right from the opening tip . . . but they weren't.

While Minny led the Eastern Conference cellar-dwelling Mystics for most of the game (no surprise), it wasn't until fairly late in the second half that the star-studded Lynx finally opened up a decisive margin, ultimately beating Washington, 81-62.

The BCs were, quite frankly, surprised by Minny's mostly less-than-dominating performance. Their list of starters reads like an All-Star game roster. Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus . . . aka superstars. Even at the other end of the bench, the Lynx are loaded with talent. Some of their reserves (Candice Wiggins, for example) would be starters on almost any other team in the league (especially the Mystics).

We didn't go to the game expecting the Mystics to win. We applauded every basket, block and steal the Mystics made . . . but, truthfully, we went to the Phone Booth tonight because we wanted to see Maya, Candice, Seimone and a few local girls . . . Becky Brunson (DC), Monica Wright (Northern VA), and Jessica Adair (GWU). The game, though, was somewhat disappointing. The "baby race" at halftime (see photo above), featuring a bunch of crawling (and crying) infants in diapers, was probably the most interesting and fun part of the evening.

With tonight's loss, the Mystics drop to 5-18, ensuring their tenth losing season in their 14-year history. (Not what we expected after 22-12.) They next play on Saturday at 7 PM, at home against the Chicago Sky, the first half of a back-to-back that will take them to Indy on Sunday. Both games will be broadcast on NBA TV.

Cell phone photo credit: DC BasketCases

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More of the Same

Tonight in New Jersey, the Mystics clawed their way back from a 13-point (24-11) first quarter deficit to take the lead by one point over the New York Liberty with 25 seconds left in the game. But once again, the Mystics could not finish, losing 69-66. Another big night for Crystal Langhorne (25 points), without a win. (Poor Lang.)

The loss drops Washington's record to 5-17, which means the best the Mystics can do this season is finish at .500, but that would require them to win all of their remaining 12 games.

Almost as painful as watching tonight's game on Live Access was listening to the New York announcers. Two hours of our lives we can never get back. (We kept hoping The Big White Whale would surface and put Kym Hampton and Tara Petrolino out of our their misery. No such luck.)

The Mystics return home on Thursday to host the league-leading Minnesota Lynx (who were on the short-end of a 108-79 blow-out in Connecticut tonight) at 7 PM in the Phone Booth. This will be the only opportunity for Mystics fans to see rookie Maya Moore play in person this season. That should make the game more interesting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Call Me Ishmael

Just because the WNBA scheduler ordered the Mystics to play a back-to-back this weekend didn't mean the BCs had to watch a back-to-back this weekend. So we didn't actually see the Mystics' play the Sun at the Casino last night. Instead, we opted to watch the second half of a back-to-back new, made-for-TV movie version of Moby Dick starring William Hurt and Ethan Hawke (which we recorded on our DVR a week or so ago).

However, during several of those long stretches when Moby was submerged, the BCs flipped open our iPad to the WNBA Center Court app, so we could check-in on how the two teams were doing. What we noticed was the same pattern that Mystics games have followed so many times throughout this season: Washington plays a tough, close game, only to falter down the stretch or in the final seconds. Last night, we'd say it was "down the stretch."

In the end, the Mystics' road trip to the Reservation turned out to be as futile as Captain Ahab's quest for the White Whale. No good came of either. (Hope we didn't spoil the end of Melville for anyone.) Moby Dick got the better of Ahab and his crew (well, except for Ishmael, who floated to safety on a coffin), while the Sun put another nail into the Mystics' coffin, as Washington lost, 82-75. Their record now lies down stands at 5-16, and the Mystics maintain the dubious distinction of being one of only two teams (and the only one in the Eastern Conference) without a single back-to-back victory this season.

The Mystics' next game is against New York (in New Jersey) on Tuesday. For the record, this will be Washington's third game against the Liberty in 11 days . . . just another example of fakakta scheduling in the WNBA. We finished the movie, so we probably will watch this one.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mystics (finally) Win a Clothes Close One

Tonight at the Verizon Center, the Mystics made it two in a row over the New York Liberty.

Unlike last Sunday's game, however, this one was no rout. Instead, it was a closely contested rematch. The Liberty made a couple of runs, but in each case, the Mystics countered and closed up the gaps. In the end, with the Mystics leading by one, it was New York (this time) who failed to finish, missing a layup as time expired. Mystics win, 64-63.

The usual suspects led the Washington win: Lang tied New York's Leilani Mitchell for game high scoring honors with 18 points. Matee added 13, and Nicky Anosike cleaned the glass with (game high) 11 boards. These players and the rest of the Mystics have very little time to savor tonight's victory as they head to Connecticut for a 7 PM match-up tomorrow against the Sun at Mohegan.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


The Mystics announced today that Alana Beard will not be able to play at all this season. While likely not a surprise to most Mystics fans, this is still very sad and very unwelcome news.

One thing the BCs know about Alana -- from watching her, for years, in a Mystics uniform -- is that she's a consummate competitor. She played hurt for good stretches of her career. When she couldn't play, because of injury, nobody attacked the job of re-hab with more vengeance than Alana did. And this off-season was no exception.

Last summer, Alana was forced to sit, watch and cheer her teammates as they won a record number of games; although she was a great cheerleader, not being able to contribute on the court had to be extremely tough for a competitor like Alana. But she stayed positive, and the effort that she put in, in an attempt to return to the court this year (following a severe left ankle injury) was impressive. We feel really disappointed -- mostly for Alana's sake, but also for Mystics and WNBA fans -- that she will now miss a second full season of play.

In the Mystics' release today, Alana is quoted as saying that she looks forward "to returning on the court in 2012." The BCs certainly hope to see Alana return, and play again.

Photo credit: DC BasketCases

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

For A Short While Tonight it looked like the Mystics might actually put together their first genuine win streak of the season, albeit only two games long.

But it was not to be. Ahead by 5 points with just under 40 seconds left, Washington allowed Atlanta to reel off 7 straight points . . . and the Dream won, 72-70. The Mystics' win "streak" ended at one game, and the players and their fans suffered yet another heartbreaking loss.

How many close ones have the Mystics lost this season? The BCs have lost count . . . but we know it's quite a few. Tonight's loss might well have been the worst. Losing a lead in the last minute, at home, and your opponent hitting the go-ahead bucket with under a second left. That's a stake through the heart. Once more, Washington managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

With the Dream's win tonight and the Sky's loss to the Sun, Atlanta has now leapfrogged over Chicago into fourth place in the East, while the Mystics remain mired in last place in the Conference. The next chance for Mystics to change direction is Friday, when they host the Liberty at the Phone Booth. These two teams haven't played each other since, well, Sunday, when Washington recorded its fourth victory of the season.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

For A Change, last night at the Phone Booth, the Mystics not only beat the Liberty . . . but won easily and by a pretty big margin, 91-81.

The BCs weren't there, but we saw most of the game on NBA TV. After spotting New York a 6-0 lead, the Mystics took over about 4 minutes into the first period on a Kelly Miller 3-pointer and never looked back. Technically, this wasn't a wire-to-wire win, but it was pretty darn close.

The Mystics were up by as many as 22 points in the third quarter. They were led by Matee Ajavon, who had a career-night . . . she scored an amazing 32 points and notched her 1,000th career point along the way! "Old Faithful" Crystal Langhorne added 20 points, and Lang tied with Nicky Anosike for game-high rebounding honors (9 each).

For the Mystics, after going 1-9 during the month of July, August is already looking a whole lot better. This was, undoubtedly, Washington's best performance this season. They are now 4-14.

Next up: the Mystics meet the Dream at home on Tuesday and then host the Liberty again on Friday . . . in other words, they play two of the four teams they've beaten this season.

P.S. We are curious about one thing. The Mystics' 1st round pick, Victoria Dunlap, didn't play at all in last night's romp. She didn't play in the two prior games, either. What's up with that?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Going for the Gold . . . in China!

Rising Maryland Senior Lynetta Kizer was so enthralled with the BCs' (and Petey's) Chinese adventure earlier this year that she couldn't wait to go over and see the country for herself. But with the Terps' planned trip to the Middle Kingdom (scheduled for June) put off until next summer, the ever-resourceful Netta had to find another way to get herself there.

So she tried out for, and was just named by USA Basketball to, the 2011 USA World University Games Team that will defend the USA's gold medal later this month at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China.

This is a BIG and well-deserved honor. Congratulations, Netta . . . . bring home the Gold!!!

(P.S. Don't drink the water . . . seriously!)

Photo Credit: Maryland Women's Basketball