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Mystics-Liberty Preview

A sluggish start last season contributed to the Washington Mystics missing the playoffs for a third straight year. While it's still too early to determine their postseason fate, they're already off on the wrong foot.

Looking to prevent another miserable opening stretch, the Mystics will try for their first victory when they visit the New York Liberty on Thursday.

In 2007, Washington went a franchise-worst 0-8 before winning 16 of its final 26 games as it tried to make its first playoff appearance since 2004.

That season-ending momentum, though, didn't carry over into its first game of 2008.

The Mystics (0-1) trailed for most of the game and were unable to overcome a 9-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter in a 64-53 defeat at Indiana on Saturday night.

Nakia Sanford had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Monique Currie scored 10 for Washington, which had 22 turnovers.

"They came after our point guards pretty hard and we didn't have that off-guard to relieve the pressure," Mystics coach Tree Rollins said. "It was a good play on their part."

The Mystics finished last in the league in shooting (40.4 percent) and averaged 76.0 points per game in 2007, and both trends continued in the opener. They shot 42.9 percent (21-for-49) and had their lowest output since totaling 52 points in a loss to Sacramento on May 22, 2007.

They struggled without Alana Beard, who missed the contest after undergoing surgery in September to repair a torn labrum. The three-time All-Star, who ranked fourth in the league in scoring (18.8) last season, is doubtful to return Thursday.

Beard averaged 20.8 points in four games against New York (0-1) in 2007, but her team didn't fare nearly as well against its Eastern Conference rival. The Mystics fell to 14-23 in all-time series after losing three of four to the Liberty.

Washington has lost seven straight meetings in New York since a 71-54 win on July 8, 2004.

The Liberty, meanwhile, lost their season opener for the eighth time in the last nine years, 77-63 to Connecticut at home on Sunday.

Shameka Christon scored 14 points, reserve Tiffany Jackson had 12 and Janel McCarville added 10 for New York, which couldn't rally from a 10-point first-half deficit.

"We can't come out and start sluggish and slow like we did," Christon said. "We're going to go back and watch film and learn from our mistakes."

New York, which ended last season with five straight wins at home, plays four of its next six at Madison Square Garden.

"It was the home opener, I don't know how you can come out flat," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "We need to regroup in a hurry, that's what I expect from this group and that's what is going to happen."

Christon averaged 13.0 points and McCarville 11.0 in four games against Washington last season. Currie averaged 12.3 in four games versus the Liberty.