Ann Wauters had 14 points and seven rebounds to help the Seattle Storm beat the Washington Mystics 72-55 on Sunday for their fourth consecutive victory after a 1-7 start. Sue Bird added 14 points, five assists and four rebounds for the Storm (5-7). Crystal Langhorne led Washington (2-8) with 21 points. Matee Ajavon added 11, and Noelle Quinn had 10. Seattle never trailed again after Bird hit a free throw to put the Storm up 10-9 with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter. Bird threw a no-look pass in the fourth quarter that a rolling Ewelina Kobryn put in while being fouled. Kobryn's made free throw put the Storm in front 64-46 and ended doubt about the result. Bird hit a jumper to close the third quarter and push Seattle in front 52-37. The Mystics' 17 third-quarter points almost matched their 20-point output in the first half. But, it still wasn't enough to get back into the game. Seattle led 31-20 at the half after an efficient second quarter during which it shot 54.5 percent. Washington's 20 points were the fewest Seattle allowed in a half this season. The Mystics scored just nine points in the second period, shooting 4 for 19 from the field. The Storm played zone for a portion of the quarter, which forced the Mystics' offense to become stagnant. Washington shot several deep jump shots with little time remaining on the shot clock. A 3-pointer from Bird and a layup by Camille Little pushed the Storm in front 28-18 in the second quarter, forcing a Washington timeout. Seattle called a timeout with 6:17 left in the first quarter to discuss the dysfunction that led to an early 7-2 lead for the Mystics. A 13-2 Storm run followed. Wauters hit a jumper, Little drove and scored, and Bird hit a 3-pointer. The blitz continued when Tina Thompson scored in the lane and rookie Shekinna Stricklen hit a jumper. Washington stopped the onslaught with a jumper from Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. Seattle led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter. Former Storm player Ashley Robinson returned to Seattle for the first time since being traded to Washington in the offseason. Robinson received a nice ovation when she checked in with 6:45 remaining in the second quarter and scored two points in just four minutes on the floor.
Two days after his star point guard John Wall questioned the effort of his teammates on defense following a disappointing loss against the Orlando Magic, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke at length about where his team stands at the moment and his efforts to right the ship. The 7-13 Wizards continue to complain about defense following games they feel they should have won, so how do they change that now that they have reached the quarter-mark of the season?
Brooks, as he has for much of this season, directed the blame towards himself.
"We aren't satisfied being 7-13. We feel like we gave a few games away and a couple of games probably didn't go our way," he said. "I'm disappointed where we are and I'm disappointed in myself in not being able to figure out how we can get better and play better and play consistently better."
On the subject of Wall and players speaking to and about their teammates, Brooks said that behind the scenes there have been no disagreements that he would classify as unusual or corrosive.
"I can tell you this that it hasn't happened. We're still together and trying to figure out ways to get consistent play and win games. The good thing about my job is that we have a bunch of good guys on the team. There's not one guy that comes to the court that I wish wasn't here. I think every coach has been in situations like that where you're not happy to be around certain players. But we don't have that here, we've got guys that work and guys that will continue to work. They are high-character guys," Brooks said.
Brooks believes that in general honest communication is a positive thing, as long as the intentions generate from the right place.
"It's with all good teams. I've seen guys have conversations or guys have conversations with guys during games. If you don't do that, you don't care. It's important. All the great teams that have been in the history of this league have had guys that communicate during timeouts," Brooks explained. "Sometimes it's heated. Sometimes it's very heated and you have to be able to manage that. I call it coaching. We watch film and it's not about calling anybody out. It's facts, it's about how can we get better?"
The central premise of Wall's comments involved effort. He said, among other things: "to still be talking about playing hard, that's something that you should be able to do after just waking up."
Brooks has been harping similar messages involving focus on the defensive end. But he says it's not as simple as just telling players to try harder.
"It's the daily habits of doing it every day and it's pretty simple, but sometimes it takes longer than you want. I think right now, in my eyes, it's taking longer than I would like. But we're going to keep working, we're going to keep talking about it, we're going to keep watching it in the film sessions and we're going to keep practicing it on the court," Brooks said.
Brooks continued to say that the Wizards have the personnel to be better on the defensive end. They have two capable guards in Wall and Bradley Beal and others who provide value in rebounding and protecting the rim. They just haven't been able to put it all together and that is the frustrating part.
[RELATED: Film study: Wizards' defense on hiatus]
The Washington Capitals have recalled defenseman Aaron Ness prior to the team's trip to Buffalo.
Ness, who has been played 17 games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League this season, has scored the most goals among defensemen on the team (3) and is third in points (9).
The 2008 NHL second round draft pick, has played in 37 NHL games with both the New York Islanders and the Capitals. Last season, the 26-year old played in eight games for Washington and recorded two assists.
Ness joins the team after Matt Niskanen's upper body injury, which has him missing the team's Sabres matchup on Friday.