Miscuing and 1-1 Mystics face WNBA champion Lynx

767488.png

Miscuing and 1-1 Mystics face WNBA champion Lynx

The review: Two games in, the Mystics sport a 1-1 record following 64-61 win over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. Obviously, that is ahead of last seasons six-win pace. Averaging 27 turnovers is as well. Despite losing the ball a whopping (but not franchise-record) 32 times and blowing nearly all of a 16-point second lead, Washington survived behind 49 points combined from Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie. We didnt particularly play well but we were able to come out with the win, said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 19 points. We have a lot of things to work on and we will practice and come out better. Playing the woeful Shock winless this season after three victories last year helped, but the competition is about to go up several notches.The preview: The Mystics finish their season-opening a three-game homestand against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-0). Led by former Connecticut star Maya Moore, the Lynx have won their opening games by an average of 15 points. The turnovers: The first time they touched the ball against the Shock, the Mystics coughed up possession. There was no containment for the faulty control as it spread throughout the roster each of the 10 players that received playing time had at least two. On Saturday, there were 16 in each half, at least seven in each quarter. There were bad passes and dropped throws. Dribblers lost their handle in traffic and the open court. In some cases, credit the Shocks smart use full court pressure. In other cases, pure head scratchers.Its good to win, however I am not pleased with the types of turnover or the number of turnovers, said Wizards coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, already frustrated after the team committed 23 turnovers in the season opening loss. We definitely have to make better decisions with the basketball. The turnovers were silly, I dont know any other way to put it, and we have to continue to work on that.The return: After missing the opener with a sore knee, Ajavon attacked the basket relentlessly from her wing position and sparked the Mystics early offense in the process. She took 10 free throws in the first half, sinking eight en route to 15 points before halftime. On the defensive end, Ajavon tacked on four steals.It was very nice to have Matee back, Lacey said. She provides a lot of energy and shes tough and thats what Ive asked of the team, she has stepped up and shown a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.The point guards: Usually the ball handling duties fall to this position, but the Mystics are still searching for a clear solution. One of the many newcomers on the retooled roster,Dominqiue Canty received the start against the Shock. Less than two minutes in, the 13-year veteranhad already committed three turnovers. Shefinished with five, matching Ajavon and Langhornes unwanted team-high total. Second-year floor leader Jasmine Thomas tacked on three turnovers in 13 minutes. Including Natasha Lacy, the Mystics' point guards finished with five assists with 10 turnovers.The third quarter: Lacey needs to bottle her halftime speeches or at least find a way to spread out thesubsequent good play throughout the second half. In both games, the Mystics held their opponent to less than 10 points in the third, finishing with a combined 35-15 advantage. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored the Mystics 42-23.The Lynx: Washington cannot afford to give away possessions against a Minnesota team which scores a a league-high 90.2 points per game and tops the WNBA in field goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting. Moore averages 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and has knocked down 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Seimone Augustus tops the Lynx with 19 points per game.

Quick Links

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Quick Links

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres