Mystics trying to block out the Sun

Mystics trying to block out the Sun

The matchup: The Washington Mystics return home Tuesday night, attempting to avoid something they havent done since last season by doing something they havent done all season. Currently on a five-game losing streak, the only way for the Mystics (5-21) to not reach a season-high sixth straight loss is by defeating the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun for the first time this calendar year.The two sides are meeting for the fifth and final time this regular season with the Sun looking for the series sweep for the second straight year. Connecticut has won eight straight over Washington and four straight at the Verizon Center, site of two victories this season including the narrowest contest. Despite Crystal Langhorne pacing five double digit scorers with 15 ;points and Michelle Snow notching 10 points and 11 rebounds, Washington fell 77-70 on July 10. The next day Connecticuts Olympic frontcourt duo of Asjha Jones and Tina Charles combined for 39 points and 16 rebounds in an 85-73 win. Washington, owners of the worst record in the league, hasn't lost six straight games since dropping nine in a row August 13-30, 2011. The first setback in that skid came against Connecticut.Jones 22 points stands as her season-high, but she has missed several games with an Achilles injury including Sundays 87-80 loss to Atlanta. Connecticut leads Indiana by 1.5 games. Charles (19.0 points against the Mystics) has been more than a handful, though the same can be said of the Sun dealing with Langhorne, who is averaging 17.5 points and shooting 56.4 percent (31 of 55) against Connecticut. Last time out: Leading New York 20-15 late in the first quarter, Washington surrendered the final seven points of the first quarter and then wound up on the wrong end of an 11-0 second quarter run, ultimately losing to the Liberty 79-73 on Saturday.Monique Currie led the way with 20 points and combined with Langhorne (19) and Jasmine Thomas (18) to score 57 of the Mystics 73 points. Thomas made 8 of 12 field goal attempts, but committed six of Washingtons 17 turnovers.Grasping for Griner, dreaming of Delle Donne: With eight regular season games remaining and the Mystics five games behind Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot, its not unrealistic to start pondering the future. In this case, by future we mean the WNBA Draft and more specifically, the draft lottery. Taking it even further, we mean what are the chances the Mystics land Baylors franchise-altering center Britney Griner, Delawares high-scoring forward Elena Della Donne or Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, the projected jewels of the 2013 class.The four non-playoff teams are part of the lottery process, one that NBA fans are familiar with. Last year Tulsa finished with the leagues worst record and had a 44.2 percent chance of landing the number one overall pick. At their current trajectory, the Mystics will find themselves in that position. If there is ever a year for a team to find itself in that position, its this year.Griner, the 2011-12 National Player of the Year spearheaded Baylors 40-0 campaign last season which ended with a National Championship. The 6-foot-8 interior dominator force on both ends of the court averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 blocks. Della Donne, a 6-foot-5 power forward with range, led the nation in scoring with 28 points per game.As Notre Dame's point guard, the 5-foot-9 Diggins directed the Fighting Irish to last year's National Championship game, sharing the backcourt with Mystics' rookie Natalie Novosel.

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Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

After a 34-21 start, it's hardly tiime to pull any fire alarms when it comes to the Wizards. But concern? That's legitimate after their second uneven, lackluster performance since the All-Star break.

Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Utah Jazz ran circles around this defense. The Wizards were confused, not protecting the rim, allowing open three-point shots, etc.

Basically, they were playing 180 degrees opposite of the Jazz who held them below 100 points for the first time in 24 games. 

So what has gone wrong all of a sudden? Is one of the NBA's hottest teams no more?

-- The assertive, aggressive defense that was there during an 18-3 stretch has dissipated. They're botching coverages and rotations similar to what took place during a 2-8 start. They've lost that edge. John Wall, their best player, was absent on defense vs. the Sixers and it usually gets contagious. 

--Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris aren't pulling their weight. Porter is 6 of 18 shooting, including 1-for-7 from three; Gortat is 6-for-19; and Morris is 9-for-21, 11 fouls, a disqualification and ejection. But defensively they've all been worse. The best starting five in the East is no more.

--Jason Smith has played a total of four minutes in two games. Coach Scott Brooks has to find his most effective bench player for most of the season some minutes. The energy level that has been lacking tends to pick up by his mere presence on the floor.

--Kelly Oubre's calling card has been defense, and he has been absent on both ends. His eight minutes were his fewest since Nov. 26 (also the last time he didn't crack double-digit minutes played), when he was yanked from a game vs. the San Antonio Spurs because of his lack of focus. 

--Trey Burke is back to the player he was when the season began; unable to run the offense, not confident in his play and now behind Tomas Satoransky in the pecking order. Burke only played five minutes, half of what he played vs. Philadelphia. 

--Wall has 15 turnovers in the last two games.

--Brooks has to make some tough decisions with his rotations and if it requires benching key players or drastically cutting their minutes this might be the time to do it. In the past, it's in moments like these when the train begins to go off the tracks. He has to be ahead of the curve. 

[RELATED: Wizards complain of lack of free throws after loss to Jazz]

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Need to Know: Will the Redskins be interested in C Mangold, RB Murray?

Need to Know: Will the Redskins be interested in C Mangold, RB Murray?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 27, 2 days before the March 1 NFL franchise tag deadline.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/2) 3
—Start of NFL free agency (3/9) 10
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 49
—NFL Draft (4/27) 59
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 195

Monday morning Redskins musings as free agency approaches

1. It appears that the Raiders are going to let Latavius Murray, who rushed for over 1,800 yards combined in the last two seasons, test free agency.

I’d be surprised if the Redskins showed any interest. I’m not sure that they will be jumping into the RB free agent pool, at least not into the deep (expensive) end of it. They might draft a back to compete with Rob Kelley, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown. Chris Thompson will remain the third-down back.

2. Do you wonder why the Redskins have been reluctant to draft a safety?

Eventually, someone will need to figure out the safety position in the NFL. With all the spread offenses that safeties face in college the safeties have become more like additional corner. Also, the better defensive backs in college want to be cornerbacks because it pays better in the pros. The pool coming out is generally small to begin with and then it shrinks even further for each team due to the scheme factors that Farrar discusses. Su'a Cravens could be the solution to one safety spot for the Redskins but they continue to be in search of someone to pair with him. 

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

3. The Jets allowed C Nick Mangold to announce his own release. He was one of the best centers of the past decade; Mangold went to seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro twice. But I don’t see him being of interest to the Redskins. They are happy with Spencer Long and even if they weren’t, Mangold is 33 and he missed half of last season with an ankle injury. Those factors likely will make the Redskins steer clear.

4. Maybe some fans don’t care if they are getting information from the team through the media at the combine. Or at the Senior Bowl. Or anywhere. And it is the team’s option to have someone available or not during most of the offseason (a press conference prior to the draft is mandatory). But they are missing out on a chance to give their side of the story.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

5. We have another D-lineman signed as the Panthers retained DE Mario Addison.

Addison, who was with the Redskins for five games in 2012, also had six and 6.5 sacks the previous two year, not bad for a guy who has started just one game in the last three seasons. That average of just over $7 million per year sets another data point for the Redskins to use to try to retain Chris Baker. Addison is a 4-3 end while Baker is a 3-4 end so it’s not an apples to apples comparison but it will help figuring out what a reasonable contract is. Without seeing the details, it looks like Addison gave the Panthers something of a hometown discount as that’s a good price for a guy who was half a sack away from double digits.

In case you missed it

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.