Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta


Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

The matchup: If familiarity breeds contempt, the Mystics must be sick Atlanta. They surely must be tired of losing to the Dream, something Washington has twice since late August and hopes to avoid now in early September.\The Mystics (5-23) current seven-game skid includes a 12-point loss to the Dream (xxx) on Aug. 24 and an 82-59 thrashing six days later in Atlanta, site of Sundays contest (3 p.m.).
Washington committed 38 turnovers in the setbacks while shooting 38 percent (46 of 121) from the field. Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leading scorer and rebounder, is averaging 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals against the Dream, winners of three of four games.Atlantas success against Washington came without the services of leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, who missed time while serving a suspension for violating team rules. The Olympian has since returned and scored 30 points Friday in a loss to WNBA champion Minnesota.Ex-Mystic Lindsay Harding had 16 points and five assists in the previous meeting, leading a Dream attack that scored 24 fastbreak points compared to the Mystics eight.Last time out: Any hopes of spoiling Alana Beards return to the Verizon Center on Friday went away quickly as Washington trailed the Los Angeles Sparks by double digits in a 96-68 loss. The Mystics trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and it only got worse. Monique Currie lad the Mystics with 16 points and Jasmine Thomas added 15. Beard scored 16 points with five assists and two steals for the Sparks, who shot 61 percent from the field.Rotating centers: Ashley Robinson opened the season as the Mystics starting center, but after a slow start for the stylish center and the team, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey looked elsewhere for interior production. Michelle Snow took over the center role and immediately provided an assertive presence in the paint, pulling down 12 rebounds in back-to-back June games against New York and Indiana.However the 6-foot-5 Snows minutes have been slashed over the past three games, losing the starting gig back to Robinson in the process. She played only 11 minutes against New York and Connecticut, totaling four points and two rebounds, but Snow grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes during the blowout loss against Los Angeles.Robinson is averaging 3.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 block and 23 minutes over the last three games, slightly above season numbers of 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

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Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Sporadically, John Wall would post up smaller guards last season. It didn't become a staple of his game, however, and Bradley Beal didn't do much of it either when he was being defended by them. 

Scott Brooks is trying to change that immediately. In seven preseason games, that was one of many focal points for the offense.

Wall is a big point guard at 6-4 and physically strong. Beal isn't exceptionally big for a shooting guard, but he has gotten more size and grown an inch taller than his backcourt mate. When 6-footers such as Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors have to switch onto Beal, the Wizards are getting the ball to him quickly at the rim to force a rotation from a second player to help or clear out for Beal to go to work. 

“As we all evolve we’re going to have to push ourselves to play different spots on the floor. John has great size at his position," Brooks said. "For him to post up and be a playmaker from that spot, defenses are not used to that. There are not a lot of pure point guards who can post up. He has the strength and he has the quickness and obviously he has the passing ability. With Brad, they have to make a decision. Are they going to put a bigger guy on John? We’re going to have that opportunity with Brad also."


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Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason

Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason

With their regular season opener set for Thursday (6:30 p.m. on CSN), Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was asked after practice this week what has impressed him the most about his new team now that their seven-game exhibition schedule is over. Brooks was quick to point out what has been an established strength for the Wizards in recent years.

"If I had to pick, our offense and our passing has been really, really good," Brooks said. "We're a very good passing team. I thought throughout this exhibition season that has been displayed."

The Wizards have ranked no lower than seventh in assists per game among NBA teams in the last three seasons. It certainly doesn't hurt to have John Wall at the helm of their offense. Wall, 26, has averaged at least 10 assists per game in the past two years. He ranked third in basketball last season with 10.2 per contest.

Wall, in fact, is seventh all-time in career assists per game (9.0) among players with at least 400 NBA games logged. Four of the six ahead of him on the list - Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas - are Hall of Famers. The other two - Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul - are also good names to be associated with. 

Paul, for one, will likely join the others in the Hall someday. He's the only NBA player with more assists than Wall since the latter entered the league in 2010.

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Brooks spoke glowingly about Wall's abilities and his rare his combination of speed and court vision.

"It's uncanny, his speed with the basketball and that he's able to make good decisions at that speed," Brooks said. "He sees it slow motion as he's going fast and that's very rare."

Wall isn't the only one passing the rock, of course. Brooks hopes shooting guard Bradley Beal can get more involved in the cause. Beal has a 3.0 assists-per-game average in his career, but his new coach thinks Beal can average four or five.

That may come naturally, given Beal's thoughts on the subject. He believes the Wizards' offense reached a new level this preseason.

"That's probably the best we've passed since I've been here," Beal said. "That's just everybody having fun and not caring about who scores, just getting the best shot available. When we play like that, it's fun for everybody. It's fun for coaches, it's fun for the players, fun for guys coming in the game with momentum and energy."

The Wizards as a team notched 33 assists in their preseason finale against the Raptors in Friday night. Beal alone had nine of them and no turnovers, to boot. 

That's exactly what Brooks likes to see and he hopes it carries into the regular season.

"We have to continue to trust the pass," he said. "I think our passing has been impressive. We need to continue that."

[RELATED: Brooks learning Wizards roster an ongoing process]