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We all know that Connecticut is a great team. They’re the defending Eastern Conference champs two years in a row. They have five options on the floor every minute of the game. In order for us to win, we have to take away at least two or three of those options, not totally take them away, but limit what they’re doing. If we do that, we’ll be good to go.
When we played them in the regular season, we were able to beat them at home where we play extremely well, but they took the other two matchups in Connecticut. I had a real good game in the first one, but we lost. The game that we won at home, I think everyone was clicking on all cylinders. There wasn’t much I needed to do, so I did other things that maybe didn’t show up in the stat sheet. In that final game at their home I just had an off game. I can’t say that anything they did from game to game really affected how I played.
Our coaching staff is doing a great job in giving us material to study for the game. We’re looking at tape every day for an hour and then they’re giving us film to take home that breaks down the players that we’re going to guard. We sort of have a sense of what each player does having played them this year, but the fact that they’re giving us material on every single player helps us even more.
Connecticut does a lot really well. They’re one of the best transition teams in the league. They do a great job of getting the ball down inside and then kicking it back out which is very, very hard to guard. They have unbelievable spacing on the court and it is hard to guard spacing. If one option isn’t there, they go straight to the next. They’re a veteran team that has been together for a long time and they just understand how to play with each other. For us to counter that, we have to have our transition game on point, limit them scoring in transition and limit our turnovers.
For the Sun, the x-factor may be Asjha Jones, simply because she’s a sleeper. A lot of people underestimate her and what she can do. She can hit the 15-17 foot shot and she has unbelievable moves inside. So if she comes and has a great game, Connecticut will be a hard team to beat.
I think our x-factor, whether she knows it or not, is without a doubt Nikki Teasley. She is an unbelievable player. If she comes ready and on top of her game, this series is going to be a battle. I don’t think there’s anyone on the court that can hold her or stay with her when she’s on top of her game.
And you can’t forget about DeLisha Milton-Jones. Where can I start with her? She’s having one of the best scoring seasons of her career. She did a great job of getting in the gym and working out hard during the offseason. Unfortunately she went down with an injury that set her back, but she’s come back even stronger. She’s just that type of player. DeLisha brings so much on the offensive end, but defensively she brings it too and that doesn’t show in the stat sheet. She causes a lot of problems because she’s so versatile. She can take players inside and out. Just imagine a Taj McWilliams or a Lauren Jackson trying to guard DeLisha on the perimeter. It’s very hard. She’s unstoppable when she’s at the three and pulling post players out from the blocks.
We have to make sure that we treat this series the same as any other. When you start to look at the playoffs as something different, that’s when you go wrong. Yes, the intensity level is going to rise. We all know in sort of unspoken words that we’re going into this as the underdogs. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. We’re going to play pressure free because we have nothing to lose.
The way our team is thinking in the last three regular season games (vs. San Antonio, Detroit and at New York) is that we want to finish out strong. We want to finish out the regular season with as many consecutive wins as possible because it will only prepare us further for the playoffs.
I keep hearing that if we win tonight, and then win one of our next two games, this year’s Mystics squad will have a franchise record in regular season wins. That doesn’t mean much to me. In my opinion, it is just a record and records are meant to be broken. We want to win every single regular-season game we play regardless. If the team should break a record in the process, than that is a bonus.
Alana Beard has her game face on.|
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
Yet, I think the most important thing about this team presently is that we have a lot of the same players returning that know Coach Adubato’s system. We have Nikki Teasley who is a tremendous and versatile point guard. Crystal Robinson, who has been under Coach Adubato’s system for seven years, now, is a difference maker for us as well.
As a result of the same players returning, our team chemistry has enhanced thanks in part to another year under Coach Adubato. There is a huge difference between this year’s team and last year’s team. This year we are more family oriented team and we play well together on and off the court. I think that it shows when we step onto the court our fans can see the difference in the way we play together.
However, two Mystics players that no one is talking about who will make a big difference for us in the post-season are forward Nakia Sanford and guard Coco Miller. If they can play their game the way they know how to play it, they will make enormous contributions to our success. Both players have tremendous shooting ability and are hustlers on the floor. They never go away and they always seem ready to make a play.
While it may or may not be the Mystics who win the Eastern Conference championship, I can guarantee that we’ll leave the court knowing we gave all that we can give. We are going to do all we can to win and whatever happens, happens.
But, in my opinion I think that the Sacramento Monarchs are going to come out as champions of the Western Conference. They are a physical team, they are the defending champs and they are playing great basketball together in recent games. Plus, the Monarchs have a defense that you don’t see around this league and personally, I love watching them play.
Looking at the most recent standings, it is obvious that we will be facing the Eastern Conference champions Connecticut Sun in the playoffs. This is going to be a tough task, but one that we can succeed at. This is why we go into every regular season game left with the mind set that we want to dominate every single aspect of the game.
If anything, these games coming up are only further preparation for the playoffs. If we want to defeat Connecticut in the first round there many things that we, as a team, need to do and need to do right. We need to do everything well. We need to play our game the way we know the way we can play it. We have so many players on this team that are solid athletes. I think we match-up well against Connecticut so I think it will be a great series and it’ll go down to the end.