Mystics seek relief against Sun


Mystics seek relief against Sun

Two of the Mystics 12 gloomy losses this season have come against the Connecticut Sun, leaders of the Eastern Conference pack. A home-and-home scenario between the two sides tips off on Tuesday morning. Based on this seasons head-to-head and collective results, the projected forecast for Washington when it comes to avoiding another pair of defeats, ominous.After coming up with a winning formula against Phoenix on July 1, the Mystics (3-12) have dropped two straight including Sundays stunning 16-point road loss to the three-win Tulsa Shock. Looking to reverse the trend, one that has seen Washington lose seven of eight games, against surging Connecticut (12-4) is the epitome of an uphill battle. Its one the last place squad must grapple with and quickly. Only three games remain before the WNBAs month-long Olympic break. The first one tips off at 11:30 AM on Tuesday at home followed by a Wednesday road contest in Connecticut.Our goal is to play better for longer stretches of time and to put together a 40 minute game, Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said following the 78-62 loss at Tulsa. There are stretches where we play well and we look good and then we have defensive breakdowns and we turn the ball over. We allow teams to go on runs and that has to stop. After Fridays 78-73 home loss to San Antonio, center Michelle Snow offered a blunt assessment of the current situation. "It's very frustrating. I'm not used to losing,'' said Snow, a 10-year veteran playing her first season in Washington. "You just want to scream, you want to blow up, you want to fight, whatever it takes to wake everybody up. Honestly, a change is going to come. You can be part of that change here or you'll just be part of that rotation (leaving town). That's the way any job is.''The main job for Snow and her fellow post players against Connecticut involves containing Tina Charles. Good luck. The center and 2012 Olympian averages 18.6 points and ranks second in the league with 11.6 rebounds.In a 94-86 win over the Mystics on June 3, Charles exploded for a season-high 30 points, knocking down 13 of 22 field goal attempts. In the June 29 rematch,her13 and 10 double-double spurred ona 77-64 victory at the Verizon Center.Tina is a great player and she is going to do her thing, Mystics leading scorer Crystal Langhorne said after tangling the first time with Charles. We let her get some easy chip-ins in the first half, which got her going, and then she was really hot in the second half and she was hitting everything. We just needed to contain her a little better than we did.Charles is not the Suns only threat, or Olympian. Forward Asjha Jones averages 12.8 points, a number boosted by the she20 points she tallied in the road win. Collectively the Sun, winners of two straight and sixconsecutive against Washington,average 83 points per game. That's nearly 14 more than the Mystics, the leagues lowest scoring team.Only Langhorne reached double figures against Tulsa as the Mystics struggled with consistency and maintaining possession, giving away scoring opportunities with 19 turnovers. Our main focus when we play Connecticut is slowing down our offense, said Langhorne, who is averaging 18 points against the Sun and 16.6 overall. They have great post players and great shooters. We just really need to pick it up.Pick it up, and quickly.

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Morning tip: Breaking down how bigs now tasked with being 'playmakers' for Wizards' defense

Morning tip: Breaking down how bigs now tasked with being 'playmakers' for Wizards' defense

ATLANTA -- Don't think there are any differences in the Wizards under Scott Brooks on offense? That would be wrong. Think they're approaching defense the same way? Not even close. Whether or not these changes produce more wins and a playoff berth will be determined soon enough, but the process begins tonight with the bigs -- namely Marcin Gortat or whoever is in the middle -- making all of the defensive calls. 

Last season under Randy Wittman, there was mass confusion. They routinely switched coverages, changed game plans, wouldn't adjust in-game and guards also were making calls to complicate the communication process. The results were busted coverages left and right. Brooks is intent on avoiding that catastrophe so the frontline handles the defensive calls. 

"The guards can't see what's going on. We're closer to the basket. We can see the floor. It's kind of like how K.G. was with Boston, directing the defense from the back," said Markieff Morris, projected to be the starting power forward next to Gortat, in referencing the now-retired Kevin Garnett.

Of course with a new coach, the language changes. Some teams call "blue" when they want to do what's called an "ice" of the side pick-and-roll. In other words, send the ball to the baseline. Under Brooks, the Wizards call that "push." Sending the ball-handler to his weak hand results in a call of "weak." Those details really are minor. 

What Brooks wants is for the Wizards to follow the ball first and foremost. He doesn't want his defenders preoccupied on the weakside of the floor. 

"We want to make sure we load to the ball and get into the paint within the rules," Brooks said. "You only have 2.9 but we want to utilize that. ... We've had a tendency in the past, early in camp, staying next to your man when your man doesn’t have the ball which was not a good thing."

Most teams manipualte the defensive three-seconds-in-the-lane rule to use an extra defender -- usually the center/rim protector at the 2/9 position -- to contain the ball against superior players on the strongside of the floor. It's effectively a zone defense principle but they have to get out of the lane, of course, before a violation is called. That leaves the offensive player on the far side unattended because he's not a major threat from that spot.

"We’re slightly better than we were last year. If we want to win basketball games, everything starts on defense," Gortat said. "We all have this bad flavor from last year. We all know we basically we (expletive) it up, to be honest with you. That’s what we did. You can quote that.

“We've got to be humble, we got to work hard, shut our mouth, don’t talk who we are, who we want to be and how far we’re going to be and stuff like that. Just go out on the court and do it. Just freaking do it. Let our actions speak for us. This is where everything started, having the right schemes from coach Brooks. It made us more comfortable with everything we do. We’re leaving the farthest guy open. We helping each other on the pick-and-rolls. All five of us got to work."

This all requires John Wall and Bradley Beal to work harder on the defensive end. Taking plays off isn't an option, but early on it will be a challenge for Wall who admitted that he has had trouble maintaining that level as he regains his conditioning after missing so much time because of surgeries to both knees.

"The biggest thing is he wants pressure on the ball. Our coverages are a lot simpler than last year. He makes it easy for the defense," said Beal of Brooks' concepts. "It’s really up to the bigs to make the call. The guards got to adjust to that. That’s how it goes. They see the whole defense. They see everything that’s going on behind us so they’re essentially the playmakers on defense."

The Wizards went from being a top 10 scoring defense three years in a row to 21st during a 41-41 season. They can't allow the sort of defensive debacle that took place on the road last year in Denver

"We got to be up into the ball," Morris said. "Honestly we're going ot average a lot of points. We got a lot of guys who can score the basketball. ... We just have to be a defensive-minded team. I'm usaually up into the ball on pick-and-rolls, usually showing, because I'm quicker than the average four. We're going to be different in a good way."


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Ovechkin gives young Caps fan in Edmonton a stick

Ovechkin gives young Caps fan in Edmonton a stick

The Caps may have lost to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, but one Caps fan was all smiles.

When you're wearing red in a sea of blue and orange, you're bound to stand out. One little Ovechkin fan braved the crowd at Rogers Place to support the Great 8. When Ovechkin saw, this happened:

Wednesday offered few bright spots for the Caps, but this was certainly one of them.