Storm beat Mystics 79-71 for 5th straight win

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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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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

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

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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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.

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How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

The calls about Otto Porter came early and often during the trade deadline that passed earlier today, but they went unanswered by Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. He plans on keeping the soon-to-be restricted free agent now that he has blossomed into an elite shooter who is a perfect fit for one the NBA’s best starting fives.

“We love Otto,” Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com, before the Wizards departed for Fridays' game at the Philadelphia 76ers. “We love the way that he’s developed and how he’s come along. I think Otto fits in very well with what we’re trying to do. I said he’s part of our core and we want to keep him here.”

Porter didn’t enter his fourth NBA season as this hot of a commodity. But in his first season under coach Scott Brooks he has elevated every aspect of his game, averaging career-highs of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 53.4% overall shooting and an NBA-high 46.5% three-point shooting.

With John Wall and Bradley Beal having All-Star-caliber seasons, and Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat playing their best basketball since coming to D.C., Porter has stepped right in. He’s no longer the shy, shoulder-shrugging Mr. Nice Guy that he was when the Wizards drafted him No. 3 overall in 2013.

MORE WIZARDS: POWER RANKINGS -- POST DEADLINE OUTLOOK

Though he’s still a nice guy, he has more edge to his game and certainly a confidence that was absent in most of his first two seasons. Last season, Porter’s first as the starting small forward, he came on strong late after lingering in the low 30s on his shot from three.

Now it’s a well-oiled machine. When defense overcommit to Wall and Beal, Porter makes them pay. As a result of his explosion, so will the Wizards to keep him. Porter's emergence created an unexpected expense.

The move made by the Wizards to trade Andrew Nicholson’s $26 million salary, in addition to sacrificing a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic, was to create more cap room. They anticipate needing it to retain Porter, who earns $5.9 million this season.

The Wizards must make him a qualifying offer of 125% of that salary to retain the first right of refusal by making Porter restricted. Not making a qualifying offer would allow him to become unrestricted.

“He and John, Bradley, Keef and Marcin and all the rest of our players complement each other very well,” Grunfeld said. “We hope to have him here for a long time.”