Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

WNBA: Monarchs Run Down Mystics

Guru's Note: We finally have a double-dip report, with yours truly in Connecticut for the Phoenix Mercury game on Satuday while Jonathan Tannenwald delivers another report from Washington, this time on the Mystics-Sacramento game.

In terms of chronologically order, this occurred before we hit the keyboard, although it's probably not the right order in terms of the read -- whatever.

Additionally, not to be outdone by The Return of Superman, KB will take a break from summer fun and handle Cappie Pondexter's trip to New York to play the Liberty Sunday when Madison Square Garden expects to have a strong Rutgers presence in the crowd. KB may even weigh in herself in the next 24 hours to say hello.

Now, on to Jonathan.

By Jonathan Tannenwald

WASHINGTON _ Although it is generally considered poor journalistic form to start off a story with a cliché, the idea that basketball is a game of runs was on full display in Washington on Friday night.

Specifically, there were three: One for the Mystics and two for the visiting Sacramento Monarchs, the defending WNBA champions.

Not surprisingly, the Monarchs energed victorious.

With a fast start and a big finish, Sacramento dealt the Mystics their second home loss of the season, 73-60.The result put the Mystics under .500 for the first time this season at 9-10, while the Monarchs improved to 11-8.

There was a buzz in the building early on – or at least whatever kind of buzz an announced Verizon Center crowd of 7,847 can create – when Mystics guard Alana Beard was cleared to play just minutes before tipoff.

Beard had missed Washington’s last two games at Phoenix and Minnesota with an ankle injury.

The Mystics came out sluggish, though. They trailed 14-5 midway through the first quarter and 22-12 at the half.

Sacramento scored seven points on the fast break to Washington’s none in that span, and the Mystics shot only 1-of-5 from three-point range against the Monarchs’ zone defense.

With 4:30 to go in the second quarter, Sacramento had pushed its lead to 33-19.

At that point, though, the Mystics clicked all of a sudden and launched a 17-2 run. Nikki Teasley’s layup with 3.4 seconds remaining in the half made the score 36-35 in Washington’s favor, the home team’s first lead of the night.

Teasley scored five points in the run, accompanied by six points from Chasity Melvin and four Sacramento turnovers.

Mystics coach Richie Adubato blamed the slow start on fatigue from his team’s four-game road trip through the Western Conference, which started in Houston on June 29 and ended Wednesday in Minneapolis.

“No matter what you try to do after you’ve been on a West Coast trip, you come back and you play the day after, for some reason you’re always sluggish to start the game,” Adubato said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to be sluggish against Sacramento, but we were.”

The third quarter was generally even, if defensive, with the Monarchs outscoring the Mystics 16-14 to take a 51-50 lead.

Mystics guard Coco Miller drove to the basket for a layup at the buzzer, but the light on the backboard came on before she released the shot and the basket was disallowed.

That decision, while correct, proved somewhat influential.

Sacramento began the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run, part of a 16-0 run that began with a layup by Kara Lawson with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter.

Washington did not score in the fourth quarter until Nakia Sanford hit a layup with 4:13 remaining, breaking a scoreless span of nine minutes and one second.

Lawson – playing not far from her hometown of Alexandria, Va. – scored 10 points in the run, which gave Sacramento a 62-50 lead that it never came close to relinquishing.

In the context of these runs, perhaps the most significant statistic of the game deals with Washington’s lack of running.

The Mystics scored only three points on the fast break in the game, while Sacramento scored 11.

There was a healthy debate after the game as to whether Beard’s lack of full health had something to do with this.

The former Duke star admitted after the game that she did not play with her usual intensity, but she stressed the defensive aspect of her game over her scoring.“I couldn’t get up and pressure the point guard like I love to do, I couldn’t get in the passing lanes because I didn’t feel comfortable with overplaying plays,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was quick enough.”

Beard didn’t have to analyze her offense much, as she scored a game-high 15 points – although only 6-of-16 shooting from the field, including an 0-for-4 night from beyond the arc.

“Alana played like you would think she was going to play – she hustled, she played hard,” Adubato said. “When I watched her at the beginning of the game, I didn’t see where she was limping, I didn’t see where she couldn’t run, I didn’t see anything notable that would warrant me to say that she wouldn’t play.”

Mystics forward Crystal Robinson also stood up for Beard’s effort.

“Alana’s a great player, but we can’t expect her to be Superwoman,” she said. “She did the best we could – we’ve got to take our hats off to her for that. Everybody puts way too much expectations on her.”

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