The matchup: The Washington Mystics return home Tuesday night, attempting to avoid something they havent done since last season by doing something they havent done all season. Currently on a five-game losing streak, the only way for the Mystics (5-21) to not reach a season-high sixth straight loss is by defeating the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun for the first time this calendar year.The two sides are meeting for the fifth and final time this regular season with the Sun looking for the series sweep for the second straight year. Connecticut has won eight straight over Washington and four straight at the Verizon Center, site of two victories this season including the narrowest contest. Despite Crystal Langhorne pacing five double digit scorers with 15 ;points and Michelle Snow notching 10 points and 11 rebounds, Washington fell 77-70 on July 10. The next day Connecticuts Olympic frontcourt duo of Asjha Jones and Tina Charles combined for 39 points and 16 rebounds in an 85-73 win. Washington, owners of the worst record in the league, hasn't lost six straight games since dropping nine in a row August 13-30, 2011. The first setback in that skid came against Connecticut.Jones 22 points stands as her season-high, but she has missed several games with an Achilles injury including Sundays 87-80 loss to Atlanta. Connecticut leads Indiana by 1.5 games. Charles (19.0 points against the Mystics) has been more than a handful, though the same can be said of the Sun dealing with Langhorne, who is averaging 17.5 points and shooting 56.4 percent (31 of 55) against Connecticut. Last time out: Leading New York 20-15 late in the first quarter, Washington surrendered the final seven points of the first quarter and then wound up on the wrong end of an 11-0 second quarter run, ultimately losing to the Liberty 79-73 on Saturday.Monique Currie led the way with 20 points and combined with Langhorne (19) and Jasmine Thomas (18) to score 57 of the Mystics 73 points. Thomas made 8 of 12 field goal attempts, but committed six of Washingtons 17 turnovers.Grasping for Griner, dreaming of Delle Donne: With eight regular season games remaining and the Mystics five games behind Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot, its not unrealistic to start pondering the future. In this case, by future we mean the WNBA Draft and more specifically, the draft lottery. Taking it even further, we mean what are the chances the Mystics land Baylors franchise-altering center Britney Griner, Delawares high-scoring forward Elena Della Donne or Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, the projected jewels of the 2013 class.The four non-playoff teams are part of the lottery process, one that NBA fans are familiar with. Last year Tulsa finished with the leagues worst record and had a 44.2 percent chance of landing the number one overall pick. At their current trajectory, the Mystics will find themselves in that position. If there is ever a year for a team to find itself in that position, its this year.Griner, the 2011-12 National Player of the Year spearheaded Baylors 40-0 campaign last season which ended with a National Championship. The 6-foot-8 interior dominator force on both ends of the court averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 blocks. Della Donne, a 6-foot-5 power forward with range, led the nation in scoring with 28 points per game.As Notre Dame's point guard, the 5-foot-9 Diggins directed the Fighting Irish to last year's National Championship game, sharing the backcourt with Mystics' rookie Natalie Novosel.
The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.
That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.
"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman.
Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.
"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."
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Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common.
"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."
The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive.
"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”
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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."