Mystics head west to face Beard, Sparks


Mystics head west to face Beard, Sparks

I dont have an explanation for it except that people werent ready to play and that is unacceptable and inexcusable.What Im going to do is find the five people that want to play together, that want to play defense and want to play (with) energy for the entire game.That is what Mystics coach Trudi Lacey had to say following the June 8 loss to New York, at the time Washingtons fourth straight setback. It also marked another game the revamped roster opened with a less than full-throated effort and in turn fell behind by more than 20 points in the first half.With a week to prepare before facing Indiana on Friday and Lacey staying true to her lineup shakeup pledge, Washington may have found the right mix at least the result for one night said as much. They stayed in contact early and made enough plays late for a 67-66 home win over the Fever."We have felt like this has been coming for a long time, Lacey said following the Mystics second win of the season. As I try to explain that when you have so many fresh faces to the offense the chemistry takes some time, our defense has been pretty solid. It was a total team effort.Now, starting Monday night in what is a de-facto reunion Los Angeles against Alana Beard, Washingtons all-time leading scorer, Lacey will see if the lessons learned travel as the Mystics (2-5) start a three-game road trip. Dating back to last year and including two games this season, the Mystics have dropped 11 straight away from the Verizon Center.Crystal Langhorne heads west with a streak of three straight games of 20 or more points. That level of production from the All-Star forward is baked into the Mystics winning formula recipe. Its the other ingredients enhancing her post presence that changed the taste from bitter to winning.Assertive wing guard Matee Ajavon, making her first start of the season along in the new-look backcourt with fellow newbie start Jasmine Thomas, scored 15 points, shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range. In the opening lineup for a second straight game, center Michelle Snow, one of the man y newly acquired players added this off-season, pulled down 12 rebounds. Simply new altogether, 5-foot-2 guard Shannon Bobbitt, signed as a free agent on Wednesday, finished with eight points and five assists n 19 minutes of play on Friday.
Well, she maybe the smallest player on the court but shes the toughest player on the court.The Mystics will need some toughness against the Sparks (7-3), winners of all four of their home games this season, but entering Monday on a two-game losing skid.Los Angeles defense has sparked those home wins as opponents are scoring just 68.7 points per game. Offensively, Candice Parker leads the Sparks in scoring with 19.4 points and Kristi Tolliver, Langhornes former teammate at the University of Maryland, averages 16.2 points.The current Mystics will also have to contend with all the ex-Mystics now playing on the left coast starting with Beard. After missing two seasons with injuries, the 30-year-old guard is averaging 9.8 points and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. DeLisha Milton-Jones, Marissa Coleman and Coco Miller are also part of the Sparks rotation. No matter the players, the two sides have been even over the years. The Mystics and Sparks have split their last seven season series.

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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]