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Mystics prepare for crucial game against Sun

Well this seems like a familiar scenario, doesn't it? It's late in the WNBA season the Mystics could still finish a whole host of places in the Eastern Conference standings and need to keep winning to make sure they don't wind up as the odd team out of the playoffs.

The good news for the Mystics is with six games left they control their own destiny and they aren't quite facing the dire situation they were in last season, yet. Regardless, tonight's contest against the Connecticut Sun, who trail Washington by only two games heading into this one, couldn't be any more crucial.

"Every game from here on out is huge especially games against the Eastern Conference teams," Monique Currie said. "This game against Conncecticut is absolutely huge. They're chasing us at the moment and we need to control anything we can down the stretch. We had a good game plan against them [Sunday] but in the fourth quarter they came out and played harder than we did. We just have to want it more."

The log-jam standings in the East have been a roller coaster for the Mystics over the past few weeks as they went from first to fourth with a few stops in between. But with four of the final six games at home, Washington may be in a desirable position.

"Last year we were waiting on teams to lose and that's the most horrible feeling in the world," point guard Lindsey Harding said. "We don't want to have other teams control our future. Right now things are in our hands. We have the control. If we win them all we're in, if we win most of them we should be in. We need to win."

Washington is 9-4 at Verizon Center this season and the boost of returning to Northwest DC may be exactly what the team needs to snap its two-game losing streak.

"My thing is there are some teams that are really athletic, some that are physical and I think our team just plays the best when we have a lot of energy," Harding said. "That's when we win. It's not just energy here or there but when we have energy for the whole 40 minutes. In New York and in Connecticut we didn't have the energy that we needed consistently to win those games. For me, I want to lead by example by creating that energy myself and demanding it of everybody else. That's my goal and I've been trying to pump the team up for tomorrow but it always seems to help create that energy when we're at home."

So what didn't go well in Sunday's game against the Sun? Washington fell victim to another ill-timed lapse when they couldn't match Connecticut's tenacity late in the game, but the Mystics also failed to crack the 20-point plateau in any quarter. Not to mention a very large discrepancy in free throw attempts (Connecticut took 29 while Washington took 6).

Another key will likely be limiting the ever-present Tina Charles' effectiveness. Washington held Charles to 10 points in their only win against the Sun this season back on May 23, but she's scored at least 13 points in every contest since.
"We just have to try to box out and make it difficult for her to get the ball," Crystal Langhorne said. "You can't really just put one person on her so you throw two and three people at her and just try to minimize her. Show her different things, we can't get discouraged."

Currie said it's nice to play the same team this close together, partially because it allows the players' to maintain a singular focus. But considering the changes the Mystics must make for this game and the rest of the way through the regular season illuminates some of their inconsistencies.

"The biggest thing is if we want to be a championship team you have to play hard for 40 minutes," Currie said. "A lot of teams in the East are pretty evenly matched when you get down to it so it's about the good, little things that people do. We've got to beat teams to hustle plays, foul less than the other team, rebound -- but it's not always about getting a rebound so much as making sure (the person you're guarding) doesn't. Those things are really what can decide who wins and who makes the playoffs."

Harding injury update
In the two games since landing awkwardly and rolling her ankle against Atlanta, Washington's workhorse Lindsey Harding played 22 and 30 minutes against New York and Connecticut, respectively.

It's an odd injury for Harding, who joked Monday that she is "getting old and feeling all of my 26 years." There is some soreness and aching in her ankle, but nothing that Harding will allow to keep her sidelined.

"When I misstepped and landed that way it twisted things around," Harding said. "It's more in my calf, shin and tibia than my ankle but it's all a little sore. My question to the doctor and the trainer always is: 'If I play how can I make it worse?' The only way to make it more painful and make it worse would be to roll it again. Because it's just a pain thing -- and how much I can deal with -- we're kind of in good shape. I'll go as far as I can for as long as I can. I'm trying to do my best not to let any of it impact things on the court."

By Katie Carrera  |  August 10, 2010; 12:33 PM ET
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