Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Do I Hear $5,000?"

YES!!! Today was the Mystics' annual Breast Health Awareness Game, followed by the now-annual auction to benefit Sibley Memorial Hospital's Sullivan Center For Breast Health. The auction was a resounding success, raising nearly $39,000! Among the items auctioned off was a package that included, among many other things, Alana Beard's All-Star jersey, photos, and the late addition of a golf outing at Sheila Johnson's resort in Florida. The package went for a whopping $5,000! Great event! Great cause!

Many other items were auctioned off as well, including a meal with Lang and Marissa, which went for $2,000 (toddler not included).

Every player's pink game jersey was auctioned off. Kia worked the crowd hard and raised $700.

Greg Bibb was the auctioneer, displaying, once again, a great talent for the job. But this year, he had a good bit of help from Matee Ajavon, who used her wonderful sense of humor and enthusiasm to help run up the bids on many of the items.

Lindsey's game-worn pink jersey -- with lunch thrown in -- brought in $3,500, demonstrating the immense popularity of this Mystics newcomer.

But it was Marissa Coleman's jersey (without lunch!) that earned the highest apparel bid this evening -- a staggering $3,600!

Oh yeah, there was a game today. Prior to the auction, the Mystics (pretty in pink) took on the Lynx in a game that was critical to the playoff chances of each team. The Mystics were down a few points at the half, 38-34, but roared back with a huge third quarter (33-16!) to build a lead that was threatened but never relinquished. The Mystics won, 81-75. Meanwhile, New York beat Chicago (sorry, Kristi) at the Garden and, late tonight, the Sun lost to the Sparks in LA. So now, Washington is not only back in a playoff spot, but in 3rd place! That's the good news.

The bad news is that, very late in the game, Alana sprained her left ankle, and was unable to return. She appeared briefly at the auction . . . on crutches. For Alana's sake, most of all, we hope this is nothing serious. And, of course, as excited as we are now that the Mystics are back in playoff position, it goes without saying that if Alana has to miss any of the remaining five games, the Mystics will have a tougher time hanging onto that playoff spot.

Photo Credit: DCBasketCases

A Must Win Game!

When the Mystics returned from their 4-game West Coast roadtrip on Wednesday, they were sorely in need of a little rest. And their schedule kindly allowed for that . . . no game until today, Sunday. However, the two teams -- Chicago and Detroit -- locked in a tie with Washington on Wednesday for the 4th playoff spot in the East were not so idle. By beating the Liberty on Friday, the Sky managed to move a half-game ahead of the Mystics in the standings. Meanwhile, the Shock first pulled ahead of the Mystics with their win over Atlanta on Thursday, but fortunately slipped back by virtue of their overtime loss at San Antonio yesterday. That leaves the Mystics now tied for 5th with Detroit, a half game behind Chicago, which is now tied with the Sun, who lost last night in Phoenix. (Got all that? There will be a quiz!)

The Mystics return to the court today at 4 PM, hosting the Lynx at the Phone Booth. Minnesota is currently sitting in 4th place in the West, just a half-game ahead of the Silver Stars. So this afternoon's contest is critically important to the playoff chances of both the Mystics and the Lynx. With only six remaining games, the Mystics cannot afford to slip any further behind. Beating the Lynx is a must for the Mystics . . . no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Chicago is also playing at 4 PM this afternoon . . . against the same Liberty team they beat Friday night by 19 points. A New York win on Friday would certainly have helped the Mystics, playoff-wise. But fueled by a 13-point barrage in the final 5-1/2 minutes of the 3rd quarter by a certain Sky bench player, Chicago turned a single digit half-time lead into a convincing win over the visiting Liberty.

Who was that Chicago reserve? Some rookie by the name of, umm, Toliver, we believe. Not sure if you've ever heard of her. Sky Coach Steven Key doesn't play her very much. She hasn't even gotten off the bench in several games this season. But after helping to blow the game wide open in the 3rd period on Friday, she finished the night with a career high 25 points (in 20 minutes of play). Not bad for a little-used rookie! Not bad at all.

Of course, the BasketCases are being facetious. While we (and no doubt the Mystics) were hoping for a New York win, it certainly brought smiles to our faces to watch Kristi lighting it up -- like we've seen her do so many times before -- to help lead her team to an important victory.

The pro game is tough on college fans. Without question, our WNBA loyalty lies with the Mystics. But we still find it very hard to root against Kristi's team. Nevertheless, we must. A Washington win today, coupled with a Chicago loss, would land the Mystics back in playoff position. In fact, with Connecticut playing tonight (at LA), depending on the outcome of these games, the Mystics could end the day anywhere from third to sixth.

So . . . Go Mystics, Beat the Lynx! Go Sparks, Beat the Sun! And (reluctantly) Go Liberty, beat the Sky!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Terps Fans . . . Mark Your Calendars!

Earlier today, the University of Maryland released its schedule for the 2009-10 season, which you can find here. While the Terps' ACC schedule is as rough as ever, it's pretty clear that this year's out-of-conference schedule reflects a distinct dialing back of the degree-of-difficulty compared with that of the last couple of seasons.

The BasketCases were not terribly surprised by this. Given the graduation this past spring of the remaining members of Maryland's 2006 National Championship team, and the new players coming on board this fall, Maryland is in somewhat of a re-building mode. Coach B and her assistants (2 of whom are new to the program as well) will be working to meld last year's promising newcomers, returning "vets," and incoming rookies into a cohesive whole. So before throwing this group to the ravenous lions of ACC play, the Terps will ease into the season facing some local schools, including Howard, Loyola, Towson and American, as well as several not-quite-household names, such as Longwood and Stanford Samford.

A few dates to note:

After a couple of exhibition games at home on November 4th and 10th against Bowie State and Catholic University, respectively, Maryland opens the regular season, also at home, on November 14th against North Carolina Central.

As for non-conference challenges, Wendy Larry's (always tough!) Old Dominion Monarchs will be arriving at Comcast on November 19th, the back end of the home and home begun last season. Then the Terps hit the road to face Mississippi State on November 22nd.

This year Maryland draws Minnesota as its opponent in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. This match-up has its own backstory. In 2002, after being named the National Coach of the Year, Coach B resigned as head coach of UMinn to accept her current head coaching job with the Terps. Let's just say that the Golden Gophers and their fans weren't exactly happy to lose her. Frankly, after seeing what she's done for the Maryland program, we can't blame them!

ACC play (the real season) begins on the road for Maryland with a game in Raleigh against NC State on January 7th, followed by a nationally televised game (ESPN2) at UVA on January 11th. The Terps' first home game against an ACC opponent takes place on January 14th, when Boston College comes to town. And be sure you don't book any other engagement on January 24th. That's when Duke makes its annual visit to Comast.

Be sure to check the schedule for all the other ACC match-ups. Of course, conference play concludes with the ACC Tournament slated for March 4-7, when the Terps will attempt to defend their ACC Title in Greensboro. Winning two titles in a row will be an uphill battle this season . . but who knows? Nobody, we mean nobody, picked the Terps to win a Natty in 2006. So we're looking forward to the games -- conference and non-conference -- and we'll just have to see how this new season plays out. Go Terps!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We Woke This Morning to the news that Senator Ted Kennedy had died. We also woke to the news that the Mystics had lost. We can tell you that one bit of news upset us far more than the other . . . and the far more important news -- the one that depressed us the most -- had nothing to do with a game or a round ball.

Rest in Peace, Ted.

But since this is a Mystics blog, let's talk briefly about the game. Washington heads home today from its 4-game West Coast swing with a losing record (1-3). Last night in Seattle, the Mystics were soundly beaten by the Storm, 68-78.

The Storm went on an early 31-9 run, leaving the Mystics with a deep deficit from which they never recovered. It's not a good sign when, in the words of Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans, your competitor can begin resting its starters "midway through the third quarter."

About the only positive thing we can see from the box score is that both Mystics wings had decent outings. Marissa came off the bench to score 13 points. (Let's hope that she is finally emerging from her slump.) And Mo also finished with 13 points. Unfortunately, no other Washington player was in double figures.

The box score is here, the brief AP report (with yet another factual error . . . who writes this stuff?) is here, and Jayda Evans's game story in the Seattle Times is here.

The Mystics return home with a record of 13-15, still clinging precariously to a tie for 4th place in the East, since the Sky also lost last night (to the Sparks). However, Chicago is hardly Washington's only problem, as the Mystics are getting squeezed from behind by the Detroit Shock, who beat the Sun last night and are now in a virtual deadlock with Washington and Chicago in the standings.

Fortunately, the Mystics now have several days of home cooking and sleeping in their own beds before they host the Lynx on Sunday. Maybe that will help them shake off the ill effects of this less-than-successful road trip. If Washington can regroup and begin posting some wins, they are still very much in playoff contention. But they need to take care of business -- particularly at home. What they cannot afford to do now is look for help from or worry about what other teams are doing. The great Satchel Paige may have put it best: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Storm Tonight!

The Mystics finish out their 4-game West Coast swing in Seattle tonight, with a game against the Storm that tips off at 10 PM ET. Yes, another late start for fans out here in the DC area. And unfortunately for any East Coast night owls, the Live Access video for this game will be blacked out because ESPN2 will be broadcasting the Sky's game vs the Sparks. So anyone staying up to follow the Mystics' game live (most likely not the BasketCases) will get Frank Hanrahan's** ("woman-to-woman D") audio only.

As our readers already know, tonight's game is very important to the Mystics' playoff chances. Washington and Chicago both enter today's games tied for 4th. Meanwhile, last season's WNBA Champions, the Detroit Shock, are making a late-season push, and are trailing the Mystics and the Sky by only 1 game. Since all three teams are playing tonight (the Shock play on the road at Connecticut), the standings may look very different this time tomorrow.

To state the obvious, if the Mystics want to control their own destiny, they need a "W" to conclude this road trip . . . no easy task. The Storm (2nd in the Western Conference) are 10-3 at home this season. To get the win, the Mystics will need to bring the same energy and execution (not to mention rebounding and free throw shooting) they brought last Friday against the (1st in the Western Conference) Mercury.

It can be done! Go Mystics! Beat the Storm!

**Afternoon Update: The Mystics have announced that Christy Winters Scott will be calling tonight's game.

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A Very Sad Note . . . Kathy Hawk, wife of Connecticut Assistant Coach Scott Hawk, passed away yesterday. The BasketCases' thoughts and prayers are with Coach Hawk and his family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to Backs Are Brutal!

Just ask the BasketCases! We had every good intention of staying up late again Saturday night to watch the Mystics take on the Monarchs in Sacramento -- another game (second in a row!) starting after 10 PM ET. Well, after blogging until the wee hours of Saturday morning, we confess . . . our snap & crackle ran out of pop by halftime. Unfortunately, the Mystics (from the 20 minutes we saw) -- up late playing the night before -- were having the same problem. They trailed by 12 points when we called it a night, and they ended up losing to Sacramento by the embarrassing score of 60-82.

After playing their hearts out to beat the Merc on Friday, followed by a 5 AM wake up call Saturday morning, and flying coach from Phoenix up to Sacramento, Washington then had to play a game that very evening (starting at 7 PM local time). As back-to-backs go, this one was brutal. But this is the WNBA, and back-to-backs come with the territory. All teams have to play them, every season. So while fatigue may have been a factor, that's no excuse for such a disappointing performance. The Monarchs team has plenty of talent and has been playing better of late, but a 22-point margin of victory? No, no excuses for that!

The box score is here, the AP story (with a glaring factual error, see if you can spot it), is here, and the Sacramento Bee story is here.

Some observations, with the caveat that we didn't see the entire game. The Mystics started slowly, looking tired. They were being outrebounded on the defensive boards, a sure sign their legs -- and effort -- weren't all there. Indeed, by game's end, the Monarchs had outrebounded Washington, 42-32. The Mystics shot 35.6% from the field, a stat that won't win most games. And they didn't take care of the ball, turning it over 24 times. The Monarchs held Alana Beard to a total of 5 points. Five points. Only two Mystics scored in double figures -- Lang, once again the team's leading scorer, had 16 (and 10 boards, for another double-double), and Mo had 10.

It's been that kind of a season for this young and re-made team. On Friday, the Mystics play some of the best team ball they've played all summer and defeat the team that leads the Western Conference, then on Saturday, they are routed by the team at the bottom of that same Conference. Teams that win championships know how to win consistently. The young Mystics still need to learn how to do that.

Unfortunately, with their loss to the Monarchs, the Mystics weren't able to take advantage of the fact that the Sky lost last night to Detroit. The Mystics therefore remain tied with Chicago for 4th place in the East, with fewer and fewer games to play (and the teams behind them getting closer in the standings).

The Mystics don't play again until Tuesday night, in Seattle. Here's hoping they get some good rest (figure out where their get-up-and-go got-up-and-went) and regroup to hand the Storm a big loss. They needed to -- at worst -- split this four game road trip, and Tuesday's game at Key Arena is now their final chance. Hopefully, they will make the best of it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Worth Staying Up For!

As our readers have probably figured out by now, the BasketCases are not exactly late night people. But the Mystics made it well worth our while to stay up late Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday to watch their game against the Western Conference leading Mercury. Washington WON, 91-81!

That's right!! The Mystics, who came into US Airways Center only 4-7 on the road, became only the 4th team this season to defeat the Merc on their home court. It was an exciting, barn-burner of a game, with 14 lead changes and 9 ties. The score was tight until the very end, neither team up by more than a few points, until Washington was finally able to pull away.

The Mystics' win was a team effort, with 5 players in double figures, led by Crystal Langhorne, who had a game-high 19 points. Yes, Lang outscored both Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter on their own floor. (Adding a bit of drama in the waning seconds of the game, Taurasi, well-known for her colorful language, was called for two technicals and was ejected!) Lang also had 12 boards, for a double-double. Harding (15), Beard (14), Currie (12), and Ajavon (12) were the other Mystics in double figures.

Rebounding was a huge factor in the Mystics' win, as Washington literally cleaned the glass all night, pulling down 46 (!) rebounds to the Merc's 26, and leading the Phoenix announcer to observe, late in the game, that the Merc had been "crushed on the boards tonight." The Mystics' performance from the free throw line -- so often a problem for them this summer -- also helped seal the win, as Washington made 17 of 20 from the charity stripe. In fact, Mo, Alana, Lang, and Nakia (!) were perfect from the line. (We just knew that Kia would go 2 for 2 when the announcer said she was a terrible free throw shooter just before she took her first shot! Thank you!)

With this huge road win, the Mystics have climbed back into a tie with Chicago for 4th place in the East. But the Mystics have very little time to savor this victory, as they have to hustle quickly up to Sacramento to play the Monarchs at 10PM ET on Saturday night (that would be tonight!), the second half of a grueling back-to-back in the middle of their West Coast swing. Chicago will also be playing on Saturday (against Detroit), so much will be at stake in terms of playoff position.

Congratulations to the Mystics on this BIG win! Now, Go Mystics, beat the Monarchs!

Friday, August 21, 2009

. . . Into the Fire!

The Mystics are in Arizona today, where they'll be facing two kinds of heat: 1) the thermometer today in Phoenix is expected to hit 106 and 2) at 10 PM ET, in the second game of their 4-game road trip, they'll take the court against the Mercury , one of the hottest teams in the WNBA.

Beating Phoenix will be a daunting task. With a record of 18-8, the Merc are in first place in the Western Conference. They lead the league in scoring, averaging an eye-popping 92.6 points per game! Not only that, but they are dominant at home, having won 10 and lost only 3 at the US Airways Center. (Washington is 4-7 on the road this season.) Phoenix has also won the last 3 meetings with the Mystics.

We're not saying Washington can't win this one. They most certainly can! Back in June at the Phone Booth, the Mystics lost to the Mercury by only 6 points, despite 24 turnovers and shooting only 56% from the foul line. So if the Mystics can take better care of the basketball and if they can improve at the charity stripe, they could leave the desert with a BIG road win.

Needless to say, given the tightness of the playoff race, there would be no better time than now for the Mystics to end Phoenix's streak. With the Sky idle tonight, a win by the Mystics would move them into a tie with Chicago for 4th place in the Eastern Conference. Tonight's game, as usual, will be webcast on Live Access, and TGIF because the BasketCases just might be able to stay up tonight to watch this one! Go Mystics!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mystics Lose Another Close One

By the time the Mystics took to the court at the Staples Center in LA last night for a 10:30PM ET tip-off against the Sparks, the Chicago Sky (despite getting 22 points from Kristi Toliver off the bench) had already lost to Phoenix, giving Washington the opportunity to climb back into playoff position with a win. Unfortunately, the Mystics couldn't capitalize, and fell to the Sparks 69-72.

The BasketCases did not stay up to watch this game, but by all accounts the Mystics fought back late in the game from a double-digit deficit to nearly pull out a W. So while the Mystics were once again competitive (something missing last summer) they couldn't quite seal the deal.

The LA Times story is here, the AP story is here, and the box score is here.

A couple of things stand out from the box score: it appears the game was once again lost at the foul line. Only this time, it wasn't lost at the Mystics' line (Washington hit an unspectacular but respectable 71%); it was lost at the Sparks' line, where they took -- and converted -- 9 more FTs than the Mystics did. Washington was called for 10 more fouls than the Sparks were, including a controversial call (according to message board posters) where an initial call of a jump ball, which the Sparks were arguing should've been a time-out before the tie-up, became a foul charged to the Mystics! The second thing we noticed was the rebounding margin, 35-25 in favor of the Sparks. Frankly, that doesn't come as a major surprise. Let's remember that this was the Sparks, with a frontline of Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Tina Thompson and DeLisha Milton-Jones. Most teams struggle against a line-up like that. And so did the Mystics.

Like the Mystics, the Sparks are also fighting hard for a playoff berth. With the season winding down, the LA Times said it best: "Both teams are on the edge of either slipping through a closing door into the postseason or having the door slam in their face." Last night, the Sparks helped themselves toward that door. On Friday, the Mystics need a big win in Phoenix to help keep that door from slamming shut altogether.

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Thank you readers for the eyewitness comments you added to the post below.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't Wait Up!

The Mystics begin their 4-game West Coast swing tonight with a game against the Sparks that tips off at 10:30 PM ET in L.A. In other words, far too late for the BasketCases on a school night.

So for those of you who like to check our blog after a game to see what we have to say, we just want to give you fair warning that while we certainly encourage you to stay up late to watch the game on Live Access, you should not expect us to be doing any blogging at 1 AM!

We'll try to post any links we find about the game in the morning. And if you do stay up to watch the webcast, by all means please feel free to share a comment with us here.

Needless to say, the stakes for Washington on this roadtrip are incredibly high, given the tight playoff race in the East. The Mystics' loss on Sunday to New York dropped them to 12-12 and 5th place in the Conference, a half-game behind Chicago. The Sky are also playing tonight (they host Phoenix), so the potential exists for the the Mystics and the Sky to flip positions. Given how bunched up the Eastern Conference teams are right now, we expect that on any given night we'll see teams jumping up or down in the standings.

In short, with only 10 games left to play in the season, every game counts for the Mystics if they want to secure their first playoff berth since 2006. And with two West Coasties on their roster (Nikki Blue and Kristen Mann), we're hoping the Mystics feel right at home in Cali and can make this one count.

Go Mystics! Beat L-A!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

. . . the Agony of Defeat.

Friday night, Mystics fans experienced the thrill of a huge 2OT victory over the Connecticut Sun. Two days later, in the same arena, we experienced the agony of an unfortunate defeat, as Washington let one slip away to the New York Liberty, 59-60.

The low final score might be a hint that this wasn't a particularly exciting or well-played game, by either team. The first quarter ended in a 17-17 tie. This was followed by a truly lackluster 2nd period in which the tired-looking Mystics only managed to score 6 points. Fortunately, New York scored only 14. So, as poor as they had played, Washington was only down by single digits (8 points) heading into halftime.

After the break, the Mystics showed some early signs of life, pulling even at 38 with about 3-1/2 minutes left in the 3d quarter. But they weren't able to pull away. Four consecutive missed free throws (aargh!), a couple of fouls and a few missed shots resulted in a 40-40 tie at the end of the period.

Unlike Washington's performance in some previous games, the Mystics didn't melt down or disappear in the final period. This afternoon, they actually opened up a slim, 5-point lead about halfway through the 4th quarter. That's the good news. But the bad news is that more missed free throws, fouls and missed shots allowed New York to tie the score with 44 seconds left. Alana responded on the next possession with a baseline drive for a layup, to put the Mystics back up by 2. She used up most of the shot clock, but the Liberty still got the ball back with about 20 seconds remaining.

On Friday, Lang hit the game-winner with 9.1 seconds left; today, Janel McCarville scored on Lang in the paint and was fouled . . . with 9.1 seconds left. McCarville then made the and-one. To complete the reversal of Friday's play-by-play, it was the Mystics who then missed a final 3-point attempt as time expired. Mystics lose. New York wins by 1.

This was the third meeting of these two teams this season, and it was the third time the game was decided by 3 points or fewer. Despite New York's bottom-dwelling conference standing, the Mystics knew that this game would be tightly contested, like the earlier meetings. They also knew that in order to remain in one of the top 4 spots for playoff contention, they needed to win this one. They needed to, but they didn't.

So now, as the Mystics fly out tomorrow morning for a tough, 4-game, West Coast road trip, instead of packing momentum, the team will be carrying some disappointment along with their other baggage.

The Mystics open that West Coast swing on Tuesday night at 10:30PM ET against the now-at-full-strength Los Angeles Sparks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

OMG! What a Game!! If you were there, this is one you won't soon forget. For the 9,700-plus fans in attendance, this is one we'll be talking about for years to come.

Tonight at the Phone Booth, the young-and-the-reckless Mystics team played their hearts out -- for 50 minutes -- to beat the Connecticut Sun (not to mention the 3 guys wearing whistles) in a Double-OT thriller, 91-89.

After a demoralizing 4th-quarter meltdown on Tuesday against the Shock, the Mystics faced the daunting task of hosting the only team this season that has succeeded in handing them a humiliating loss . . . the Sun, who beat them last Sunday up at Mohegan by nearly 30 points. But tonight the reborn Mystics showed what they were made of.

For the first 40 minutes, with their outside shooting continuing to elude them (another 0-fer night from outside the arc), Washington played gritty, grind-it-out basketball . . . rebounding, driving inside, hitting their free-throws, and contesting every Connecticut move and shot. The Mystics played with enough heart-and-soul to win this game in regulation.

So why didn't they? Well, we'd be lying if we told you we didn't think the refs called a classically horrible game. Two technicals were called on the Mystics (Nakia & Alana), in both cases because the player had the audacity to point out to the official that she had just been fouled. But it wasn't only the Ts. Time and again the jumbotron replays showed that the officials had BADLY blown calls against the Mystics. Many of those calls occurred at critical junctures in a game that was a nailbiter throughout.

However, despite the obstacles thrown in their way, the Mystics regrouped time and again and continued to fight. In the 4th quarter, Alana put the team on her back, scoring 12 of her game-high 26 points in the final 10 minutes of regulation, helping to send the game into overtime.

But tonight, to no Maryland fan's surprise, overtime was Lang's time. In the last minute-and-a-half (or so) of the first OT, Crystal single-handedly wiped out the Sun's 4-point advantage, first by scoring on a lay-up and then by stepping to the line and swishing 2 free throws (her only attempts of the night). The result: the Mystics survived to play another day overtime.

In the second overtime, Lang again led the way. She scored 6 of the Mystics' 10 points, including a 17-foot (game-winning!) jumper from the top of the key (on an assist from Alana) with about 1 second remaining on the shot clock, that put the Mystics ahead with 9.1 seconds left in the 2nd OT period. Two time-outs and 9.1 seconds of defense later, Nakia grabbed the rebound from a missed Connecticut 3-point attempt. Game over! Mystics win!

The coaches jumped into each other's arms. The players mobbed each other at mid-court. The 9,700 fans stood and screamed their approval; nobody, absolutely nobody, left before the final buzzer -- with the exception of LeBron James and 4 of his buddies. This one was a classic!

Alana, as we mentioned, led all scorers with 26. Lang finished with a double-double, 22 points and 16 boards (both career highs)! The BasketCases watched Lang play all four years at Maryland, and we have to say that this was one of the most amazing (and memorable) games of hers we've ever seen. Lang has always been a high-percentage shooter, but now her shots include long jumpers, including ones (like tonight's) made at clutch moments. She has a free-throw shooting form that is unorthodox to say the least, but her accuracy from the charity stripe continues to improve. We think this season she's answered her critics who questioned whether she could perform well at the pro level.

The Mystics are now tied again for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, this time with Connecticut and Atlanta. Though playoff position is important, perhaps more important was the statement the Mystics made tonight in toughing out a win against a perennial playoff team. No matter what the rest of the season may hold, the Mystics have shown that they are a team to be reckoned with, a team that's growing . . . a team headed in the right direction. And, as their fans already know, they are a team tremendously exciting to watch! We have 9,700 witnesses.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The One That Got Away

You could read it in the body language of the fans as they filed out of the Phone Booth. Big disappointment. Everybody knew this was a game the Mystics should've won . . . but didn't.

Sure you can say it's never easy to beat a team three times in a row, but that's really just making excuses. The Mystics had every opportunity tonight to sweep the Shock in this third (and final) meeting of the season, but instead they lost, 77-81. You could see it in the body language of the Washington players too. They knew they let one slip away.

The game started slowly, with Detroit up 15-12 at the end of a first period in which neither team play particularly well. The second period was a bit better for Washington, as they pulled ahead to take a 33-28 lead at the half. Both teams were shooting poorly, both hitting below 35% from the floor. After the break, the Mystics worked hard to stretch their lead to 9 points at the end of 30 minutes. They pushed tempo, and played more aggressive basketball than the Shock.

So as the fourth quarter opened, it was the Mystics' game to lose . . . and lose it they did. A combination of turnovers, frustrating fouls, missed shots, and some excellent shooting by the Shock's Deanna Nolan (who led all scorers with 23) and rookie Shavonte Zellous (16 points off the bench), allowed Detroit to regain the lead and forced the Mystics to play catch-up. Tonight, they didn't . . . catch-up, that is. They gave up 35 points in the 4th quarter, after holding the Shock to 28 points in the entire first half. Big disappointment? You could say that.

The Mystics continue to struggle from behind the arc, hitting only 3 of 13 tonight (after going 0-14 on Sunday). Of late, they simply haven't had any reliable outside shooters, and it's hurting them. Washington has also been hurt in its last few games by a lack of production from the wing position. Neither starter Mo Currie nor reserve Marissa Coleman is contributing the way she needs to in order for the Mystics to win.

Alana led the team with 17 points in the losing effort, one of five Mystics players in double figures. Crystal was close behind with 15, Nakia and Lindsey each finished with 12 (Lindsey also had an impressive 8 assists), and Matee added 11 points off the bench.

With tonight's defeat, the Mystics have now dropped to .500 (11-11), and are slipping in the Eastern Conference standings. Currently they're tied with Atlanta for 3rd place in the conference. Their next game is Friday, at home, against Connecticut, who clobbered the Mystics on Sunday at Mohegan. As each game now is critical to playoff chances, let's hope that on Friday, in the Phone Booth, the Mystics can return the favor.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

One of Those Days . . .

All teams have them, even good teams -- one of those days when absolutely nothing goes right. Well, the Mystics had one this afternoon, as they were thrashed by the Sun at Mohegan, 96-67. Embarrassing.

Except for a few moments to open the first half, the Mystics had nothing going today. We mean no-thing! Not their offensive execution, not their defense, and especially not their outside shooting.

This was one of those games when the Mystics couldn't hit water from a boat. They were 0 of 14 from beyond the arc! Six Mystics players attempted 3-pointers, and all 6 failed (some more than once, obviously). Overall, the team shot a paltry 35% from the field. What scoring Washington had came mostly from lay-ups. Even shots from well inside the arc missed badly. Meanwhile, the Sun scored on nearly 50% of their shots, many of their scores coming off Mystics turnovers. The Mystics certainly didn't help their cause today by turning the ball over a horrific 21 times!

It was a painful game to watch. No doubt this was one of those days and one of those games that players, coaches, fans (and, most assuredly, bloggers) would like to forget. Unfortunately, what none of us can forget is that today's loss allowed the Sun to pull even with the Mystics in the playoff race.

As ugly as this game was, the BasketCases have seen enough competitive basketball from the Mystics this season to believe that today's blow-out was an aberration . . . just a bad day by a good team. Fortunately, the Mystics don't have long to wait for an opportunity to prove that (you know, like getting back on the horse after a fall). They now return home to face the Detroit Shock on Tuesday, and have a chance to redeem themselves against this Sun team that whupped them today when they host Connecticut at Verizon Center on Friday. Needless to say, both games are critical to the Mystics' playoff hopes.

Friday, August 07, 2009

"It Wasn't Pretty." That was a comment the BasketCases heard more than once as we filed (smiling) out of the Verizon Center tonight. But it was a WIN . . . and an important one at that. So pretty or not, we'll take it!

With the second half of the season now well underway, the Indiana Fever so far have a lock on first place in the Eastern Conference. But the remaining 3 playoff spots are up for grabs, and most of the Conference teams are bunched tightly in the standings. In fact, today began with the Mystics, the Sun, and the Dream all tied for second place, making each game critical in the hunt for a little breathing room.

It was with that pressure that the Mystics took the floor against the defending WNBA Champion Detroit Shock tonight. And, ugly though it was, the Mystics eked out a win, 70-66, to improve their record to 11-9 (one more win than they posted all of last season). But most important, by winning, they kept those closely-bunched teams from gaining on them in the playoff race. As a matter of fact, thanks to our friends in Minnesota (who sent us GM Angela Taylor, Head Coach Julie Plank and PG Lindsey Harding in the off-season), Washington is now all alone in 2nd place again, as the Lynx came from behind tonight to beat the Connecticut Sun.

The Mystics committed 19 turnovers and never seemed to find an offensive rhythm, but they forced Detroit into committing some turnovers of their own, and they held the Shock's two stars, Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan, to below-average nights. Lindsey Harding drew the assignment of covering All-Star Katie and did an outstanding job of defending. Alana Beard led the Mystics with a game-high 15 points and Nakia Sanford (happily) surprised many of the fans in attendance by adding 14 points (and 8 rebounds) off the bench! Kia was the only other Mystics player in double figures.

Everyone on the roster played, and several players made big plays that contributed to this un-pretty but BIG win. Among those contributors was Kristen Mann, who in not quite 6 minutes of playing time hit two big 3-pointers. And Crystal Langhorne finished with a game-high 9 rebounds, including a critical offensive board late in the 4th quarter that she put back up for 2 points; Lang was fouled on the play, and made her and-one. Though it may not have been an inspiring performance, the team patched together whatever it took to win a close one. And, in the end, that's what really counts!

The next game most of the Mystics fans will see -- in person -- will be next Tuesday against, uhh . . . the Detroit Shock. But between tonight's and Tuesday's Shock bookends, the Mystics travel to Mohegan for a Sunday match-up against the Connecticut Sun. Needless to say, Sunday's outcome -- for better or for worse -- will have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

But that's in the future. As for the present, the Mystics are now 2-0 this season against the defending WNBA champions. And to think that this time last season the BasketCases were busy writing posts titled "The Vortex of Doom." What a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Who Let the Dog Out?

More tails tales of Marissa and her Jack Russell Terrier, Boston . . . complete with YouTube clips of "The Escape Dog"! Link here.

And while you're checking out Marissa's blog on, don't miss the very interesting and flattering feature on Mystics Head Coach Julie Plank. Link here.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Before We Get To This Afternoon's Game, the BasketCases want to address a couple of rumors circulating in the Phone Booth today. First, there's absolutely no proof that WNBA Referee Kurt Walker (#18) is Fever Coach Lin Dunn's love-child. Our sources tell us that the DNA testing was inconclusive. Second, a reliable source has also assured us the rumor that Kurt is engaged to Tamika Catchings's sister, Tauja, is simply not true. Now, on to the game.

For the third time in two weeks, the Eastern Conference-leading Fever proved to be just a little too much for the Mystics, as Indy improved their record to 15-4 by beating Washington, 87-79.

Today's was a tightly contested battle for all of the first 30 minutes. Indy broke out to an early lead, but the home team never allowed them to stretch it too far. Then late in the 3d period, the Mystics put together a run, tied the game, and took a slim (though short-lived) lead. The crowd of more than 11,500 cheering fans erupted!

But the basketball gods were not kind to Washington in the opening minutes of the 4th quarter. The Mystics started the period very flat . . . fouls, turnovers, and missed shots. In the first 5 minutes, Washington scored a total of only 2 points. Indy's 1-point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter ballooned to 14 before the Mystics finally scored again.

But with just under three minutes left to play, the never-say-die Mystics, down by 16 points, put on a ferocious charge that narrowed that lead to 6 points with about a minute and a half left. But a failure to convert on a big possession in the last minute meant the Mystics were forced to keep sending Indy players to the foul line (where they hit all their shots), leading to the Fever's 8-point final margin.

Three Mystics scored in double figures today: Alana Beard led the team with 23, Lindsey Harding was right behind with 22, and Mo Currie had 12, including 2 of 2 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, while Washington outrebounded the Fever, the Mystics frontcourt struggled today in terms of scoring.

One reason the Fever are sitting atop the Eastern Conference is that they have been the strongest team all season in the final period. They showed that toughness again this afternoon. But the Mystics showed a toughness as well. Even down, they were not out until the final minute. They played another close game against a very talented opponent. Unlike last summer, when the Mystics were rarely competitive, this team knows it has the ability to win -- even against the best teams. And judging from the excitement in the stands, the Mystics' fans believe it too.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Buzz. (bŭz)

Q: Definition, please?
A: As a verb, to make a low vibrating or droning sound as from a bee; as a noun, excited interest or attention.

Q: Are there any alternate pronunciations?
A: No.

Q: May I have the etymology please?
A: From Middle English.

Q: Could you use it in a sentence?
A: The 2009 Mystics are creating quite a buzz.

Mystics and "buzz" in the same sentence? How long has it been since we heard that? As recently as last season, the BasketCases had trouble giving tickets away. But this season's a whole new ballgame (pun intended).

Attendance is up -- tops in the WNBA. And the quality of the play is up even more! Win or lose, the Mystics are creating excitement. Around town, people are beginning to take notice. The buzz is beginning to build.

For example, last Sunday, hours after the Monarchs game, the BCs were leaving a restaurant on Connecticut Avenue (nowhere near the Verizon Center) when a Peapod delivery van pulled over to the the curb and the driver leaned out the window. Did he need directions? No. He was looking at BC Judith, still in her Mystics shirt, and he asked excitedly, "Did they win?" Judith told him "Yes!" Then they chatted about the team and about how he wished he could've made it to the game (he had to work), until (reluctantly) he left to complete his delivery rounds. Buzz!

And then last Tuesday, a service technician had just finished fixing the photocopier at BC Eileen's office. As she's signing off on the work order, he noticed the Mystics clock on her wall and asked, "Are you a Mystics fan?" Well, 20 minutes later, after talking about everything from how much better Crystal Langhorne is playing in her second season to how much he loves the way Marissa Coleman rolls up her sleeves ("looks like she's ready to go into battle"), he too (reluctantly) left to head off to his next job. Buzz!

Then on Wednesday, during a check-up, one of our doctors surprised one of the BCs by bringing up a newspaper article she had just read about the Mystics. Buzz! And this morning, we awoke to an upbeat story about the Mystics in USA Today. Buzz, buzz!

We haven't heard this kind of talk about the Mystics for years. Over the last several seasons, we've watched attendance dwindle and enthusiasm for the team all but dry up. Back then, if people were talking at all, it was to complain or commiserate. But now, the talk is different. People are getting excited again. And we're even noticing that some fallen-away fans are beginning to find their way back to the Phone Booth.

The BasketCases always believed there was only one surefire way to recapture some of that magic of the early years of the franchise: If you make it fun, they will come. And to be "fun," the fans not only needed players and coaches we could get excited about, but a team that's competing every night.

And this season, the Mystics are delivering: Lindsey Harding literally racing up the floor, splitting the defense and finishing in transition; Crystal Langhorne spinning right, spinning left, under & up . . . 2 points; Alana Beard, playing like a true WNBA All-Star; Matee Avjavon going off for fourteen 4th quarter points. The list goes on. Plus, as a team, the Mystics are competing . . . game in, game out.

This is exiting stuff! No wonder people are talking. No wonder The Buzz is Back!

* * * * * * * * * *
Game day! Sunday morning update . . . The Mystics' match at 4pm today against the Indiana Fever will be the third meeting in two weeks between these teams. The Fever's lineup will look a little different, as center Tammy Sutton-Brown is out with "a stress reaction in her right big toe." For their part, as Mike Fratto writes here in today's Washington Times, the Mystics are focused on stopping Indy stars Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, each of whom played critical roles in the Fever's wins in those first two games. Like the Mystics, we're hoping for a very different outcome against the Eastern Conference leaders this time!