Storm beat Mystics 79-71 for 5th straight win


Storm beat Mystics 79-71 for 5th straight win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After losing seven of their first eight games, the Seattle Storm decided to stop thinking too much and just let their instincts take over. Now, they're on an unbeatable roll.

Sue Bird scored 25 points and Ann Wauters added 14 as the Storm completed a home-and-home sweep of the Washington Mystics with a 79-71 win on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

Seattle (6-7) never trailed and held a 30-17 advantage at the free throw line in the opener of a four-game road swing. The Storm moved into a tie with San Antonio for third place in the Western Conference.

"When you're in a comfort zone as a team, you're able to play instinctively, not think too much," said Bird, who scored 18 points in the second half. "Early in the season we were a new group, a think there was a lot of thought going on. Now, we're just out there playing."

Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics (2-9) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Storm led by 14 points in the first half, though their edge was only 32-26 at halftime. With a second-half lineup featuring Langhorne and four reserves, the Mystics knocked down 7 of 10 shots opening the third quarter and tied the score at 36.

Seattle only made five 3-point field goals, but three came in the subsequent stretch. After 3s from Bird and Katie Smith countered Mystics scores, Wauters' shot from beyond the arc put the Storm ahead for good at 45-42 and sparked an 11-2 run.

"You can feel when a team is making a run and in those moments, you really need to bear down and focus even more then you were," Bird said. "We're veterans. We've been in this league. We know that you have to answer."

The Storm's lead didn't dip below five points in the fourth quarter, and Bird ended any hopes of a Mystics comeback with consecutive jump shots for a 70-62 lead. The Storm made 9 of 10 free throws inside the final two minutes.

Washington, returning home following a winless road trip has lost four straight and eight of nine overall. Monique Currie scored 15 points and Natasha Lacy 11 for the Mystics.

"We didn't start off well," Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. "Anytime a team scores 30 points off the free throw line, that's tough."

The WNBA's two lowest scoring teams played to form early on, scoring a combined 11 points over the opening 7 minutes before Seattle found its range late in the first quarter. Ewelina Kobryn scored Seattle's final seven points in the opening quarter and the Storm pulled away with a 16-4 run bridging the first two quarters for a 26-12 lead.

"We weren't really scoring there for a while and she just kind of came in and got us some buckets," Bird said.

The Storm improved to 2-6 on the road. By the time their current trip is completed, they will have played 10 of 15 games away from KeyArena.

"Our team has gotten better over the last three weeks," Storm coach Brian Agler said. "We better get some road wins because we have so many of them over the first half of the season."

Earlier in the day, the Storm waived second-year forward Victoria Dunlap. Drafted in the first round by the Mystics last year, Dunlap was sent to Seattle in a trade in the offseason. Agler expects the team to add a veteran to the roster on Friday and said the team is "talking a lot" with veteran free agent Svetlana Abrosimova.

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Rookies, good friends come full circle by making Wizards roster

Rookies, good friends come full circle by making Wizards roster

One day after learning they both made the Wizards’ roster, undrafted rookies Danuel House and Sheldon McClellan walked through the halls of the Verizon Center to meet with reporters waiting to discuss the news. As they turned a corner, they played rock-paper-scissors to determine who would go first. House won, giving him the opportunity to not only get his part out of the way, but also to have some fun with the other during his media scrum.

House jumped and waved his arms. He made goofy faces, he stared intently. All of it was to mess with a guy he's been friends with for years.

They are new teammates in the NBA, but House and McClellan needed no introduction when they arrived at Wizards training camp. The two have been close since middle school when they were both kids growing up in Houston, Texas. 

McClellan, a 6-foot-6 guard, left Bellaire High School in 2011 first for the University of Texas before later transferring to Miami. House, a 6-foot-7 forward, starred at Hightower High School, began at the University of Houston in 2012 and later joined Texas A&M. 

They each took different paths, but here they are, both members of the Washington Wizards.

"It’s exciting. We’re like brothers," House, who averaged 15.6 points for the Aggies last season, said. 

"Just to see each other succeed, there’s no greater feeling in the world.  To see two people from Houston, Texas go undrafted and then make the roster, that’s big for our hometown and especially for our community. If you keep pushing and fighting, you never know what’s going to happen."

McClellan said learning he made the Wizards was the best moment of his life. His name was not called on draft night, but he defied the odds to not only make a roster, but join a team with playoff aspirations.

McClellan scored 16.3 points per game and shot 56.8 percent from the field for the Hurricanes as a senior during the 2015-16 season. He's ready to now take the next step in the NBA, and do it alongside House.

"It’s a special moment, as far as both of us being from Houston and both growing up playing against each other," McClellan said. "Now we have a chance to grow in this organization together. It’s just been a bonding thing from when we were little to now."

McClellan smiled as he spoke, but didn't break his focus when House did his comedy routine behind the cameras.

"I’m not even paying attention to him," McClellan said. "I knew he was going to stand there. I’m just not paying attention. That’s what he does."

McClellan also passed on an opportunity to fire back at House, who got a jab in during his own session with the media.

"We played against each other in high school. I won. That’s my man, but I won," House said.

They have been friendly foes often over the years. Now, they are teammates.

[RELATED: Wizards roster skews younger, more athletic under Brooks]

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Morning tip: Andrew Nicholson blossoms into 'spread' option at center for Wizards

Morning tip: Andrew Nicholson blossoms into 'spread' option at center for Wizards

At $26 million, a relatively small number based on the free-agent market this summer, Andrew Nicholson could turn out to be a top five bargain for the Wizards.

The 6-9 forward was a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 2012. He came to Washington after averaging 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in four years but his role under coach Scott Brooks is broadening.

With Ian Mahinmi out because of left knee surgery, Nicholson is logging time as a backup center to Marcin Gortat, too, and his improving three-point stroke is giving the Wizards a legitimate spread five option.

“He can score down low at the block. He’s done a pretty good job of picking up how to guard the perimeter players that can shoot 3s,” Brooks said. “He’s played multiple positions at those two big spots. You need versatility. He’s picked things up pretty good.”


Aside from a variety of low-post moves and not shying away from physical play with his 250-pound frame, Nicholson made 47% of his three-point shots. He shot a career-high 36% from deep in Orlando last season.

He uses his lower body well to get into defenders and establish position under the basket. He can finish via jump hook with either hand. When Markieff Morris leaves, Nicholson will be the next man up. He has been effective in spot minutes as the center. They may have stumbled upon a wrinkle that otherwise might not have been so obvious with Mahinmi, who was sitting out practices at training camp with other ailments.

“He definitely has an old-man game. I think we’d be the 1 and 2 pick in the YMCA pickup game," Brooks said. "He knows how to play the game. There’s definitely a spot for guys like Drew He knows how to play the game. He understands his role. He’s not going to wow you with athleticism but he’s going to be a consistent performer every night.”

That quality alone will make Nicholson an upgrade.