Analysis of the Washington Mystics last six quarters indicates theoverhauled roster is starting to gel, the overall play improved.However, their last second defensive execution as in literally, the finalsecond - needs some work.The Mystics (1-3) enter Sundays road contest against the Connecticut Sun(3-1) having lost two straight games just before the game clock ran out. On Friday night, Washington led Chicago by eight points with less than threeminutes remaining and 63-58 with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Two turnoversand a missed shot later the lead was no more. With the game tied, Sky centerSylvia Fowles scored the game-winning layup with 0.2 seconds as the Mysticsfell 65-63. That stomach-punch of a setback came after Wednesday's similarly ill-fatedresult against reigning WNBA champion Minnesota. The Mystics rallied from 24points down at home and led twice in the closing minutes before allowing theLynx a put back with one second remaining.There is a positive spin to offer, especially after opening the season withtwo subpar outings even though one came in a win. The ferocious second halfrally against the Lynx nearly turned epic and the effort carried over forstretches against the Sky. Of course, so did the losing."We're getting better. We just had some breakdowns at the end of thegame, Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne told reporters following the loss tothe Sky. We were up six, eight points. We just needed to close the game atthat point but we didn't."After starting the season with a week gap between their first two games,Sundays tilt will be the Mystics third in five days. Getting Langhorne, theMystics leading scorer last season, more involved in the offense would go along way toward getting a win against the potent Sun. Last season Washington lost all four games to itsEastern Conference rival.The all-star forward scored 12 points against the Sky and has reached doublefigures in all four games this season. However, Langhornes 13.5 points pergame average is nearly five points below her 2011 average and ranks third onthe team this season.Even though the former University of Maryland star didnt pass the buckregarding her down production -things aren't going well for me Langhornesfield goal and free throw percentages are in line with her career numbers.Instead, look to her number of shots as an indicator. Last season, Langhorneaveraged 13.7 field goal attempts per game. This season, 9.5. The Sun are having no problem getting the ball to their top three scorers,all former University of Connecticut stars. Center Tina Charles averages adouble-double with 20.5 points and 11 rebounds while guard Renee Montgomery(16.3) and forward Asjha Jones (14.0) handle the perimeter production. Despite receiving 20 and 12 from Charles on Friday, the Sun fell to 85-72 athome game to the undefeated Lynx.Monique Currie, out most of the 2011 season with a knee injury, scored ateam-high 15 points against Chicago and leads Washington in scoring this seasonwith 14.3 points.
John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards host Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz on Sunday evening as they aim to continue rising the ranks of the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…
WASHINGTON WIZARDS vs. UTAH JAZZ
Where: Verizon Center
Tip-off: 5 p.m.
TV: CSN (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM
Three things to watch...
The Wizards came out of the All-Star break on Friday night with their most disappointing performance in nearly two months. They didn't just lose to the lowly 76ers, they lost to the 76ers without their best player, Joel Embiid. Offense wasn't the issue for the Wizards, it was their defense. They allowed Philly to drop 120 points and shoot 49.4 percent from the field.
The Wizards need to come out and play much better on defense if they plan to beat the Utah Jazz, who at 36-22 currently hold the fourth seed in the West. Working in the Wizards' favor is the fact the Jazz are among the worst scoring teams in the league. They rank 28th out of 30 in points per game (100.4). That said, the Wizards have let a few teams this season - the Sixers, Heat, Mavericks and Magic, for example - surprise them on that end of the court.
Bench scoring needed
The Jazz may have trouble scoring, and because of that probably should have done more at the trade deadline, but they are as good as any team on defense. The Jazz rank first in opponents points per game (95.7) and third in opponents field goal percentage (43.9). They are very good at defending the perimeter and have one of the best shotblockers in basketball down low in Rudy Gobert.
What could help the cause for Washington is some scoring from their bench. They only got 11 points from their second unit in Friday's loss to Philly and that won't cut it against a good team like Utah. Perhaps Bojan Bogdanovic, the Wizards' most notable trade deadline acquisition, can do better in his second game than he did in his debut (two points).
The Wizards were without backup big man Ian Mahinmi in the second half of Friday's loss to the Sixers because Mahinmi's back tightened up at halftime. He was limited to just seven minutes in the game, but was able to go through a full practice on Saturday at the Verizon Center. All signs point to Mahinmi playing on Sunday, but we will know more about his status when coach Scott Brooks speaks pregame.
If Mahinmi does play, it will still be something to watch. The Wizards signed him to a four-year, $64 million free agent deal in the offseason and he can't seem to find any luck in the injury department. He has missed 50 of the Wizards' 56 games this season due to knee injuries.
The mood changed immediately after the Wizards' embarrassing loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, with John Wall leading a lively discussion with the bigs in practice about coverages that were busted time after time.
Today's opponent, the Utah Jazz, are much better and a repeat performance will lead to another one.
"Whether we were in our pick-and-roll coverage, whether we were in our pindown coverage, our switches, everything was always a second late," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 120-112 defeat. "When you do that you're always behind. You're always playing catch-up every possession. It wasn't just one guy. It was two or three guys on the same possession which has been rare for us.. Hopefully we can put it behind us."
The Wizards trailed 43-41 in the second quarter with mostly starters on the floor in Philadelphia. By halftime they were down 61-49. The only player in the last eight minutes of the second to make a field goal for the Wizards was Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 40 points.
When Trey Burke entered, he appeared uncomfortable running the offense. Tomas Satoransky, who has played in combination with him recently, didn't log any minutes. Jason Smith, who was displaced with the arrival of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi in the lineup, only played four minutes but was a spark early in the fourth when the Wizards mounted a comeback.
Mahinmi only lasted seven minutes after back spasms, which flared up before the game, kept him on the bench in the second half. Bogdanovic had a full practice with his new team for the first time Saturday.
"We're trying to find some consistency. Getting Ian back, hopefully we can get him back to a stretch of games where he can play and build a chemistry with the group he's out there with," Brooks said. "Now Bojan so we can have him out there with that group. It's consistency and understanding where we can get some points. Trey and Tomas, I got to try to figure out what's the best minute-wise and who plays and the matchups."