Mystics ready for playoff opener
A rallying cry of sorts for the Mystics throughout this whole season has been how the majority of those outside of the organization wrote them off for the 2010 season once news broke that Alana Beard would be out for the year after undergoing surgery on her left ankle. It isn't hyperbole. In an annual preseason survey, general managers across the WNBA voted that the Mystics would finish second to last in the Eastern Conference and likely not make the playoffs.
Once the Mystics sewed up the top seed with Sunday's win over Atlanta, Monique Currie tweeted: "Shout out to all the Mystics doubters! All those who picked us to finish last in the east. Laughing at you right now."
Since then, Currie said: "Not too many people believed in our locker room, but we have great chemistry and we've continued to work hard all season. We believe in the way we're playing and know we're capable of winning at a high level. We've beaten every team in the league at least once we're ready for this next step in the playoffs, we have bigger aspirations than just the regular season."
Along with a sense of accomplishment in the visiting locker room at Philips Arena in Atlanta after claiming the top seed this weekend, there was an overwhelming feeling that Washington was ready to begin their second season. And it's hard to blame the Mystics for thinking that way, considering how well they've been playing lately.
The Mystics are certainly glad to have some forward momentum as an organization after 12 years of less-than-stellar results. Washington native and Bullis alumna Currie supported and followed the Mystics long before she ever joined the team, and no one needs to remind anyone about the franchise's past or that the task of creating a new reputation for the team is far from complete.
"I know the down times that we've had. W've done a lot in the past two years with our ownership believing in us and our coaches putting us in the position to be successful," Currie said. "It's about time that we got on the right track in doing what we're doing on the court. It's a long time coming and it feels good but we haven't really gone anywhere yet."
As was noted in Tuesday's hard-copy story, only three Mystics have appeared in more than two playoff games -- Katie Smith, Chasity Melvin and Nakia Sanford. The rest of the team only has the two-game sweep by Indiana in 2009 under their belts, except for rookies Jacinta Monroe and Ashley Houts, of course. But because of their history with the Fever last season along with the lack of a home game in Verizon Center, several players believe that the Mystics will be able to take more from their recent close games -- like the 75-74 win against New York -- when they're looking for playoff inspiration.
If there is one person whose experience Washington is undoubtedly glad to have at this time of year, though, it's Smith. After 35 playoff games the veteran guard knows exactly how to prepare for the higher stakes of the postseason.
"I look at it as a whole 120 minute series," Smith said. "You don't get too high or too low. You can't afford to waver a whole lot in the first five minutes or the first 40, we just have to attend to business. At the end of the day and regular season you've got to know your team and know who can make the plays inside out, consistently and when it really matters."
This first-round, Eastern Conference semifinal series against Atlanta will test the Mystics' defensive wherewithal. Considering the Dream's size inside, ability to run the floor and fast-pace offense, Washington must do what they did through the first three quarters on Sunday. Namely, match or do a better job rebounding to slow the Dream's transition game and force Atlanta, and its league-worst three-point shooting percentage, to sustain itself from an outside game.
"Their team is as athletic as they come and as big as they come," Smith said. "If they get rolling in transition I don't think you can beat them. Our transition defense is huge, our rebounding is huge and on top of that we'd like to keep them off the free throw line. We let them get there a good bit the other day. We have to be smarter with that, they will get some but we have to try to limit it."
As for what the Mystics thought of the impromptu welcome home they received at Reagan International Airport, Currie was "pleasantly surprised. I didn't think there would be so many people there."
And Smith hadn't experienced a homecoming like that since she was at Ohio State. "They all had their signs and Mystics gear on; it made you smile and let us all know that people are excited about what we're doing."
For those who can't get enough before the playoffs tip off 7 p.m. Wednesday at Verizon Center. Here's a roundup of some other Mystics links to help you pass the time:
-Be sure to check out Wednesday's story for the hard-copy editon on how the Mystics surpassed all expectations with such a strong year when the odds seemed stacked against them without Alana Beard.
-On the blog there's more from managing partner Sheila Johnson's conference call with reporters on Tuesday on everything from her relationship with the team, the rebuild and the possibility of a jersey sponsorship for the Mystics.
-ESPN's Mechelle Voepel breaks down all of the playoff series with hilarious "Inception" style.
-Over at SwishAppeal, who do you think should be named WNBA Coach of the Year? As the playoffs have inched closer the discussion seems to have settled on a debate between Washington's Julie Plank and Seattle's Brian Agler.
August 25, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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Posted by: demonj21 | August 25, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse