Washington claims top seed in playoffs: Mystics 90, Dream 81
Greetings from Atlanta, where for the majority of the afternoon the Washington Mystics showed a determination and poise not often known to their organization. The Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream, 90-81, handily on the final day of the WNBA's regular season to clinch the Eastern Conference regular season crown for the first time in franchise history.
Washington will enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed, with guaranteed home-court advantage through the first two rounds of playoffs and will face this same Atlanta team in the opening round, a best-of-three series that is tentatively scheduled to begin on Aug. 25 at Verizon Center. (The WNBA is expected to formally announce the playoff schedule sometime this evening.)
While the Mystics, who have won six straight, have talked about winning the East all season now that they've checked off this particular goal, their focus rests solely on the larger prize.
"We all just wanted that number one seed without having to depend on other teams for it," Crystal Langhorne said. "We had our little slumps earlier this year, but this is the best time for us to be playing really well, the end of the season. We're all happy about this but we want to win the championship. And why not? Why can't we win it? That's our goal."
New York defeated Connecticut 88-87 in overtime, creating a two-way tie with the Mystics in overall record but Washington remains on top because of a better head-to-head record. Indiana, the other team that entered Sunday's contests with a tied overall record, lost to Minnesota 83-29 in overtime. The Liberty will take the second seed because they have a better head to head record against the Fever, who they will face in the first round.
Although the Mystics thoroughly dominated much of the contest, the team was noticeably unhappy that they allowed Atlanta a 30-point fourth quarter that put the Dream back in the game. Chasity Melvin said it's just difficult to maintain the kind of pressure that Washington established early on and used to create its 20-point-plus lead and she's probably right. Overall the team wants to use that hiccup as motivation before facing the Dream again on Wednesday.
"I was a little disappointed at the end when it seemed like (Atlanta) was getting all of the rebounds that we were bringing in earlier," Coach Julie Plank said. "But overall 48 rebounds - I'll take that against this team. It wasn't what we wanted but we've just got to look at it as something we can learn from going forward."
Said Melvin: "You almost hate when you have a big lead like that early and keep it for so long. Early on it showed how focused we were, but it's hard to maintain that focus throughout. They're going to be ready Wednesday and we know that, we've got to be equally prepared to protect that home court we wanted so much."
Other than the lapse in the fourth quarter and what looked to be jitters early on in the contest, the Mystics showed how badly they wanted to control their own destiny in the playoff seedings with hustle.
Atlanta is not an easy team to rebound against - the Dream are the top overall rebounding team in the league averaging 38.88 per game. They're tall and physical but the Mystics have shown an ability to match them on the glass. Sancho Lyttle had 11 rebounds to lead the Dream but no other Atlanta player had more than five. Each Mystic recorded at least one board, while Langhorne, Melvin and Marissa Coleman led with 11, 9 and eight respectively.
If Washington hopes to succeed in a playoff series with the Dream, it will need a similar effort on the boards in each game. Another key will be keeping everyone involved in the offense. Four Mystics - Monique Currie (20), Langhorne (18), Matee Ajavon (11) and Nakia Sanford (10) - scored in double figures as the team recorded 25 assists.
"I think we can rebound with them, they're so big but we're a good rebounding team too," Langhorne said. "When we're able to battle on the boards with them and slow their transition game down at the same time, we've been successful."
August 22, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
Categories: WNBA playoffs | Tags: Mystics-Dream playoff series, No. 1 seed, WNBA playoffs
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