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20080525/HOUWAS
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By MATT BECKER, STATS Writer

The Washington Mystics and Houston Comets have each gotten off to horrible starts to the season.

At least one of them will avoid the same turmoil endured at the beginning of last year when the winless teams square off Sunday at Washington.

The Mystics (0-2) won all three of their preseason games, but have been outscored by a combined 30 points in their first two regular-season games.

Washington is trying to avoid a similar start to a year ago, when it opened a franchise-worst 0-8.

Despite that awful record, the Mystics actually got off to a better start to the 2007 season than the Comets, who opened a franchise-worst 0-10 and missed the playoffs for just the second time in their 12-year history.

The Comets (0-1) looked terrible in their 2008 season opener, losing to Detroit 85-66 on May 17.

Houston shot 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range, turned the ball over 23 times and allowed 20 offensive rebounds.

"We need to work on our chemistry as a team," Comets coach Karleen Thompson said. "It's basically just effort - that was a big thing."

Tina Thompson led Houston with 17 points against the Shock, while Mwadi Mabika and Matee Ajavon added 12 each.

Thompson averaged 18.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in two games versus Washington last season. The Comets and Mystics split their two-game series in 2007 with each team winning at home.

Washington lost to New York 79-60 on Thursday after dropping its season opener to Indiana 64-53 on May 17.

Against the Liberty, the Mystics scored just 10 first-quarter points and fell behind by 21 at halftime.

"We can't make ourselves get in a hole and then try to play out of it," Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. "We have to play hard every minute."

One of the biggest reasons for Washington's early season struggles has been its shooting. The Mystics shot 34.9 percent (22-of-63) from the floor on Thursday, and are only 3-for-18 (16.6 percent) from beyond the arc in two games.

With her teammates unable to find their shooting rhythm on Thursday, McWilliams-Franklin tried to single-handedly bring the Mystics back. She scored Washington's first 12 points of the third quarter and finished with 26 points - two shy of her career high - and 12 rebounds. The veteran forward had nine points and eight rebounds in the season opener.

Three-time All-Star Alana Beard had 20 points and two steals in her debut on Thursday after missing the season opener while recovering from surgery in September to repair a torn labrum. Beard ranked fourth in the league in points (18.8) and steals (1.9) last season.

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