Sleepy Mystics seek peppy start against Fever


Sleepy Mystics seek peppy start against Fever

Most folksrelate to sleepy starts at work. Of course, the typical 9-to-5 crowd has plenty time to catch up over the course of the day, week, maybe longer. Not so for the Washington Mystics. The recent trend of snoozing after the opening tipoff has put thelast place team in the WNBA's Eastern Conferenceinto uphill and ultimately losing situations. No more snooze button: The Mysticsmust right that slumbering wrong - like now to avoid letting the 2012 campaign slip away.In their last two home games, the Mystics (1-5) have fallen behind in the first half by 24 points to Minnesota and 29 to New York. In both cases, furious comebacks took place and deciding points were scored in the final seconds. By the other side. Starting with Friday nights home contest at the Verizon Center against Indiana, Washington hopes it energy is there from the start. There is a four-game losing streak to break and with a West coast road trip looming perhaps a season to save.We keep doing this to ourselves and we dont have all season to learn, Mystics forward Monique Currie said after the 76-70 loss to the Liberty one week ago. We were passive, we were relaxed and we let them come into our home and be the aggressors. We need to be aggressive; we need to not wait until were behind to start playing how we can play. Its too tough to come back and win against these teams. Its possible, but wed make it a lot easier on ourselves if we just stay in the games.After facing Indiana for thefirst offour-game season series, Washington embarks on a difficult three-game road trip, starting in Los Angeles.In their last game, the Mystics allowed the Liberty to shoot 60 percent from the field in the first half. When their defense tightened after halftime, so did the game.When we play our defense, were pretty good, Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said after practice this week. We can turn our defense into offense and thats what we want to do. We just have to play both sides of the ball for 40 minutes.That goes double for Currie, the Mystics third-leading scorer (10.7) and the rest of Washingtons frontcourt against the Fever (4-2), losers of two straight. Indianas All-Star forward Tamika Catchings is third in the WNBA in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game. The Mystics finished 0-5 against the Fever last season.Year in and year out, Catchings is always somebody we have to deal with, said Currie, herself coming of a season-low two point outing. Shes a great player, shes a tough player, but we prepare the same way that she does. Well do all that we can to slow her down.Getting out to a fast start might help.NotesThe Mystics waived guard Dominique Canty and signed free agent guard Shannon Bobbitt, the team announced on Wednesday.

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Evaluating what Wizards need from starting 5 to succeed in 2016-17

Evaluating what Wizards need from starting 5 to succeed in 2016-17

The new season begins for the Wizards on Thursdsay at the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 6:30 p.m.). While coach Scott Brooks hasn't made his starters official, this is a good educated guess on who to see introduced on opening night.

They do plenty of things well but some minor adjustments to their games will go a long way to flipping a .500 record in 2015-16 into a winning record and a playoff appearance.

PG John Wall: He’s almost all the way back from having surgeries to both knees May 5. Wall’s only issue is conditioning. He averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season, though defensively he wasn’t All-NBA anymore. It’s not about his final stat line but more about two key numbers that will determine his advancement on the offensive end. 1) Turnovers. Averaged a career-high 4.1 giveaways last season, in part, because he carried a lion’s share of the offensive burden. Below 3.0 should be his target and with Brooks moving him off the ball more often that should help. 2). Three-point shooting. The one area where Wall lags behind other competition at his position is defenses will go under screens on the pick-and-roll or double others while leaving him open at the three-point arc. He has never shot better than 35.1%. If he can hit 40%, it’s a whole new ballgame.

SG Bradley Beal: He has $128 million reasons to take his game to the next level. While health is a major factor, that’s true of every single player. Beal has to be more than a shooter and move out the teens with his points average up to the 20s. Shooting guards like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan separate themselves from the pack because of some unique abilities that Beal has yet to show. 1). Foul line. For his career, Beal attempts just 2.8 free throws per game.  That’s not enough. His goal is 7-8 a game and he has to shoot better than 78%. 2). Creating for others. Beal routinely would face blitzes from multiple defenders who didn’t respect other scorers on the floor. Beal can loosen those coverages by lifting his assists from 3.0 and rebounding from 3.7. Brooks will attempt to help by giving him the ball in different positions on the floor.

[RELATED: Brooks a straight shooter with Wizard players]

SF Otto Porter: The skills are there, but the assertiveness isn’t always present. The Wizards require a third scorer who can get more than 11.6 points per game. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2013 because he was considered the safest bet – and the most polished – because of his high basketball IQ. It’s time that he uses it. 1). Focus on mid-range. Porter isn’t really a three-point shooter. Despite his 36.7% from deep last season, he hovered below 30% for most of the season and this contributed to his disappearing act (as did his habit of looking at his feet before shooting). Though the mid-range game is a lost art in NBA with everyone in love with the three-ball, this is Porter’s strength. He can hit threes but he prefers to be moving to the ball on that catch. 2). Off-ball movement. He’s great at finding holes in the defense for shots in the paint. This type of player should average more than 1.2 foul shots a game and 1.0 assists, which are his career averages. His vision is too good for that.

PF Markieff Morris:  Twenty-seven games after being traded to D.C. last season felt more like a lengthy training camp. The Wizards went from the bottom of the table in rebounding to top six during games with Morris. He’s a perfect example of how a player’s actual rebounding numbers (5.9) isn’t necessarily representative of his impact on rebounding for a team. 1). Stretch four. Morris doesn’t have to be a specialist from three-point range but more accurate than 31.6% to force defenses to respect him, which will spread the floor even more for Wall and Beal. He has good form. If he can bump up his touch by 5%-7% it would make a world of difference. 2). Defense. When he's committed he can use his 6-10 frame.

C Marcin Gortat: Averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds in a down season is pretty good output for centers today. Like Porter, he has been prone to spikes and dips for long stretches. He runs the floor extremely well and is the best screen-setter on the team. Wall and Beal can play a two-man game with him, which allows the offense to have better flow and less predictability. 1) Pick-and-roll defense. This has been a major weakness with the Wizards as more and more teams ditch play sets for basic pick-and-roll actions to create mismatches. The communication between the frontline and backline haven't been consistent for the last two years, and now that Gortat is responsible for making a lot of the defensive calls it will be on him. 2). Less finesse and more power at the rim. Gortat has a habit of fading away from the basket too much, particularly when he's facing shot-blockers such as Hassan Whiteside. Gortat has to go at those kind of players who will take the bait when showing them the ball. He can get more whistles that way, put them in foul trouble and get to the line more.

[RELATED: No love lost for Wizards with new-look Hawks]

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John Harbaugh defends Joe Flacco's play during difficult season for Ravens

John Harbaugh defends Joe Flacco's play during difficult season for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh strongly defended quarterback Joe Flacco after Wednesday’s practice, in the midst of a difficult season for his franchise quarterback, and with the Ravens (3-4) riding a four-game winning streak.

Flacco’s current quarterback rating is 75.4, which would be the second-lowest of his nine-year career if the season ended today. He has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five).

So does Harbaugh think Flacco is “elite”? Asked how he assessed Flacco’s play at this point in the season, Harbaugh did not hold back.

“I’m a Joe Flacco guy, and I believe in Joe,” Harbaugh said following Wednesday’s practice.  “Joe Flacco is a great football player. Joe Flacco is the key to our success. So we need to all do everything in our power, so all the things fall into place for him. He can play. He can throw it, he can make decisions, he can score touchdowns for us, he can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that. Joe will take care of what he needs to do.

“I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than anybody, cares about it more than anybody. But we need to protect him, we need to run routes, we need to create confidence in our passing game, we need to run the ball well.”

But after Wednesday’s practice, Flacco admitted he needed to play better, regardless of injuries along the offensive line, or struggles with the Ravens’ running game.

“I am obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said. “We are not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I have to be better. We have to be more precise, and that starts with me – just more consistent overall.”

How well Flacco performs after the bye will be a major key to the Ravens’ fate. But despite Flacco’s recent struggles, his coach still has his back.

MORE RAVENS: Hester counting on bye week to rehab groin injury