UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- Tina Charles was determined to atone for her previous effort. The Sun's star center had 30 points, nine rebounds and four assists as Connecticut held off the Washington Mystics 94-86 on Sunday. Kara Lawson had 18 points and four assists for the Sun (4-1). Asjha Jones added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals. Charles had 20 points and 12 rebounds against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. But she was scoreless in the fourth quarter, however, and had just one rebound as Minnesota won 85-72. "I definitely wasn't happy with that," Charles said. "I know my role on this team. I know my team looks to me offensively and defensively, so I'm just going out there and playing hard." Charles made eight of 14 field goals in the first half for 18 points. Crystal Langhorne had 25 points and five rebounds for Washington (1-4). Reserve Jasmine Thomas made three 3-pointers and scored 17 with three steals. It was the third straight loss for the Mystics. To their credit, they continue to play hard. Washington trailed the Lynx by 24 points in the third quarter of Wednesday's game before falling on a last-second shot. The Mystics led Chicago by seven points with 1:22 left on Friday before losing at the buzzer. Washington trailed Connecticut by as much as 14 points (57-43) with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. The Mystics cut their deficit to three points (78-75) with a little over two minutes left in the game. "We have a lot of fighters on our team and we're going to keep on fighting," Langhorne said. "We're going to keep playing hard and we're going to get a win." Both teams shot exceptionally well from the field. Connecticut shot 52.5-percent (32 of 61). The Mystics shot almost as well. They made 32 of 66 shots (48.5-percent). Connecticut was clinging to a four-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game when it managed to get a little breathing room. A Lawson layup and two free throws by Kalana Greene pushed the Sun ahead, 84-76, with 1:06 remaining. The Mystics continued to fire away at Connecticut, though. Thomas and Noelle Quinn made back-to-back 3-pointers to cut their team's deficit to 90-86 with 19.5 seconds left. The Sun's Allison Hightower and Danielle McCray each made two free throws to end the scoring. Connecticut made a franchise-record 19 free throws (on 21 attempts) in the fourth quarter. It made 17 free throws against the now-defunct Charlotte Sting on July 6, 2006. "We knew when we got a double-digit lead in the third quarter that we'd have to execute and play well in the fourth," Lawson said. "They made a good run at us and made some threes down the stretch, but we made our free throws." Neither team could stop the other in the fourth quarter with the Mystics outscoring the Sun, 36-35. The 35 points tied a Connecticut franchise record. The Sun also set a franchise record for points in a half with 60 in the second half. They scored 59 against Minnesota on Aug. 3, 2010.
A crazy second period got a little more insane late with a disputed go-ahead goal from Evgeni Malkin. After Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist slid into Philipp Grubauer on the goal, Barry Trotz challenged the play for goalie interference.
The challenge was unsuccessful.
The NHL released an explanation of the call:
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that the actions of Washington's Daniel Winnik caused Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist to contact Grubauer before the puck crossed the goal line. The decision was made in accordance with Note 2 of Rule 78.7 (ii) which states, in part, that the goal on the ice should be allowed because "the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper."
Therefore the original call stands - good goal Pittsburgh Penguins.
You can view the play in the video above.
None of this explanation is incorrect. Winnik trips Hornqvist which causes him to slide into Grubauer. But from my point of view, it's not the trip that's the issue.
As Hornqvist slides into Grubauer, he clearly — and seemingly intentionally — hits and pushes Grubauer's pad with his stick. Unless the rule means that a player can legally do whatever he wants to a goalie so long as he was pushed into him (which we all know is not the case), this goal should have been called back for goalie interference.
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The development of a talent as raw and intriguing as Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. rarely happens overnight. Usually it's small steps along the way that ultimately add up to a finished product. On Monday afternoon against the Portland Trail Blazers, there were two things Oubre did that may qualify as significant signs of progress.
First, on the offensive end. The Wizards blew out the Blazers after getting off to a scorching hot start in the first quarter. They scored 37 points in the first and 75 in the first half, both season-highs. Oubre helped lead that charge with 10 points of his own in the first quarter on 2-of-3 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the line.
He kept it going in the second quarter with a bucket just over a minute in that saw him go around Evan Turner with a crossover. Oubre went right, dribbled behind his back and got to the rim where he finished with contact.
Oubre, 21, has shown this season he can knock down threes, finish on the fastbreak and scrap for putbacks in the lane. But beating a man off the dribble is a sign of young player growing more confident in his ability to put the ball on the floor.
"He's working on it. He knows that's not his greatest strength," guard Bradley Beal said. "Now he's perfecting it a little bit. He's using it to his advantage. He understands that he's knocking down more threes, so teams are going to run him off the line. He knows that he can now use his athleticism to get to the basket versus having to force up a tough one. He's got a pretty good package going for him. His three-ball is falling and he's starting to put it on the floor, which is even better."
Oubre finished with 18 points, just one off of the career-high he set against Bucks on Dec. 10. He finished 5-of-8 from the field, 3-of-4 from three and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. His three threes matched a career-best.
But defense is where Oubre may have taken another step on Monday. Sensing he has a player with unique versatility on the defensive end, head coach Scott Brooks decided to deploy Oubre on Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard in the second quarter.
Oubre helped limit Lillard to just 6-of-17 shooting and his contribution was the product of something Brooks had wanted to experiment with.
"Kelly did a great job of getting in his handle and making sure that he didn't get anything easy when Kelly was guarding him in that second quarter," Brooks said.
"I'm definitely exploring it. I'm just trying to find ways that he can impact the game defensively... when he's locked in, he can guard multiple positions. I've been trying to experiment to throw some more point guard responsibilities on him defensively. Nothing against the other guys. It just gives a bigger player on a scoring point guard. I thought he was really good on Lillard."
With more minutes offered, Oubre has helped improve the Wizards defensively this season. Brooks has often gone with lineups featuring both Oubre and Otto Porter along with John Wall and Beal. He feels those four can easily switch between guarding multiple positions.
This strategy took that to another level. Now Oubre was being asked to guard the smallest and fastest guy on the team.
"I can guard whoever on the court, honestly. That’s how I feel. Whoever they ask me to guard I’m going to guard them, take the challenge and have fun with it," he said. "Just staying down on his pump fakes, making it tough for him, using my length to disturb him and just making sure I keep him in front of me because he’s one of the quickest guards in the league. I think I did a solid job of that."
Oubre won't figure it all out in one afternoon against a struggling team, of course. But his teammates and coaches have pointed out certain times this season where it was obvious to him that he was showing improvement. Monday was one of those times.
"He's steady growing. He's constantly turning into what we want him to be and the kid that we drafted him to be. We just need him to continue to be aggressive," Beal said.
"I think the biggest thing is that he's definitely transitioned with his humility. He's grounded. He's always wanting to get better. He works hard and it's showing on the floor."