Analysis of the Washington Mystics last six quarters indicates theoverhauled roster is starting to gel, the overall play improved.However, their last second defensive execution as in literally, the finalsecond - needs some work.The Mystics (1-3) enter Sundays road contest against the Connecticut Sun(3-1) having lost two straight games just before the game clock ran out. On Friday night, Washington led Chicago by eight points with less than threeminutes remaining and 63-58 with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Two turnoversand a missed shot later the lead was no more. With the game tied, Sky centerSylvia Fowles scored the game-winning layup with 0.2 seconds as the Mysticsfell 65-63. That stomach-punch of a setback came after Wednesday's similarly ill-fatedresult against reigning WNBA champion Minnesota. The Mystics rallied from 24points down at home and led twice in the closing minutes before allowing theLynx a put back with one second remaining.There is a positive spin to offer, especially after opening the season withtwo subpar outings even though one came in a win. The ferocious second halfrally against the Lynx nearly turned epic and the effort carried over forstretches against the Sky. Of course, so did the losing."We're getting better. We just had some breakdowns at the end of thegame, Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne told reporters following the loss tothe Sky. We were up six, eight points. We just needed to close the game atthat point but we didn't."After starting the season with a week gap between their first two games,Sundays tilt will be the Mystics third in five days. Getting Langhorne, theMystics leading scorer last season, more involved in the offense would go along way toward getting a win against the potent Sun. Last season Washington lost all four games to itsEastern Conference rival.The all-star forward scored 12 points against the Sky and has reached doublefigures in all four games this season. However, Langhornes 13.5 points pergame average is nearly five points below her 2011 average and ranks third onthe team this season.Even though the former University of Maryland star didnt pass the buckregarding her down production -things aren't going well for me Langhornesfield goal and free throw percentages are in line with her career numbers.Instead, look to her number of shots as an indicator. Last season, Langhorneaveraged 13.7 field goal attempts per game. This season, 9.5. The Sun are having no problem getting the ball to their top three scorers,all former University of Connecticut stars. Center Tina Charles averages adouble-double with 20.5 points and 11 rebounds while guard Renee Montgomery(16.3) and forward Asjha Jones (14.0) handle the perimeter production. Despite receiving 20 and 12 from Charles on Friday, the Sun fell to 85-72 athome game to the undefeated Lynx.Monique Currie, out most of the 2011 season with a knee injury, scored ateam-high 15 points against Chicago and leads Washington in scoring this seasonwith 14.3 points.
With their 104-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the Wizards improved to 22-19 overall through 41 games, the exact midpoint of the 2016-17 season. They play again the next night in New York, so there will be little time for reflection of how they got here. But after beating the Grizzlies, head coach Scott Brooks and several of his players took a look back and a look ahead.
After beginning the season 2-8, they are now three games over .500. What have they liked about their season so far, and what do they still believe can be improved?
Brooks went into extensive detail.
“I didn’t like our start; I liked the last part of the first half, where we’ve played a much better since December. The thing I liked about the start [is that] we didn’t give in to a tough start, we kept battling and figuring out ways to get better – we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.
"I think Kelly [Oubre] has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto [Porter] has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John [Wall] and Brad [Beal], I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us. I think at home, we’ve figured that out, but we have to figure out how to do it on the road.”
Guard Bradley Beal agreed with Brooks, that he was most pleased with how the Wizards rebounded from their dreadful start.
“I like how we fought through adversity. I think we didn't give up on our slow start. We battled back and now we're over .500 now but just imagine if we were playing the way we were supposed to the first couple of games, our record would probably be a lot different. Definitely proud of the way we've been playing, the way we bounced back. We definitely can get better at playing great defense for 48 minutes, being locked in for 48 minutes. Just making sure we continue to respect our opponents and be prepared for every game moving forward.”
Otto Porter gave a few reasons why he thinks they are playing better now than before.
“Back then it was early. We were still figuring each other out. New coaches, new players. Right now, we are starting to figure things out. We are confident in ourselves, playing for each other, playing hard and just rolling with it... Just, I guess figuring out things defensively. Everybody is on the same page. Offensively, just letting the game come to us. Moving the ball, and knowing that we want to be a defensive team," he said.
Improving away from the Verizon Center was a common theme in the answers from players. The Wizards are now 18-6 at home, while only the Golden State Warriors have more home wins. On the road, the Wizards are only 4-13 with the Nets the only NBA team featuring less road victories.
That's enough to give them the fifth seed in the East, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.
“We have a lot we can improve on: just closing out games, playing for a full 48-minutes, moving the ball at times when we get stagnant, but I like the effort that we gave," guard John Wall said of the first half of the season. "The way that we started the season, the way we had a great month of December, and we're playing well right now. It's great to take care of home court, just want to for the second half of the season improve on the road. If we can find a way to improve on the road I feel like we could have a better record. To be in the situation we are now, the way that we started the season, you can't ask for more.”
The Wizards were in a reflective mood, but Marcin Gortat put it bluntly where he thinks the Wizards are currently at.
“[The 22-19 record means] nothing. We have to continue to do what we do. We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road," he said.
[RELATED: Grizzlies pay for ignoring Otto Porter]
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Seth Allen scored the final two of his 17 points on a layup with 15 seconds left to lift Virginia Tech to a 62-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
It was a game the Hokies needed after losing three of their past four games. Allen hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and Zach LeDay added 17 points.
Virginia Tech (14-4 overall, 3-3 ACC) led by as many as nine in the second half, but couldn't put away the Yellow Jackets (11-7, 3-3), who had two chances in the final seconds to take the lead. Georgia Tech turned the ball over with :09 left, and then fouled Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson, who missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Quinton Stephens missed a contested jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game for Georgia Tech.
Stephens paced the Yellow Jackets with 18 points.