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Insider Preview: Storm vs. Washington

HEAD-TO-HEAD
4-7 RECORD 2-7
W-3 STREAK L-2
3-2 LAST 5 1-4
68.4 PF 70.1
93.7 Off. Eff. 95.2
72.6 PA 76.8
100.0 Def. Eff. 105.6
30.5 RPG 32.3
.470 Reb % .510
72.8 Pace 73.2
4.0 Exp. Wins 2.5

Storm vs. Washington
Sunday, June 24, 4:00 p.m.
KeyArena
Radio: 1090 AM
Live Access: Available with subscription outside Seattle area
Buy Tickets:
Promotion: Pride Night

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com


For the second consecutive year, the Washington Mystics have a different look than a year ago. After going 6-28 in their first season under Trudi Lacey, the Mystics made extensive changes to the roster. The most notable difference involves a player who never took the court last season, or in 2010 for that matter - Alana Beard. The longest-tenured Washington player, drafted by the team in 2004, left as a free agent after missing all of the last two seasons with foot and ankle injuries, allowing the Mystics to move on after waiting for her to get healthy.

Beard was joined on the sidelines last season by forward Monique Currie, who missed the season's first 30 games with a torn ACL after a breakout 2010 campaign that saw her average a career-high 14.1 points per game. Currie has yet to get back to that level, which might represent a high-water mark, but she is averaging 10.9 points in just 24.7 minutes per game and scored a season-high 20 points Wednesday in Phoenix.

Washington's other anchor is forward Crystal Langhorne, who has led the team in both scoring and rebounding each of the last three seasons. A high-percentage finisher around the rim (her 54.5 percent shooting ranks sixth in the WNBA) and dangerous offensive rebounder (three-plus per game), Langhorne is a reliable presence who has a pair of double-doubles.

The other holdover starter is guard Matee Ajavon, whose improved play was a highlight of 2011. Ajavon more than doubled her scoring average from 5.9 points per game to 14.7 while shooting the best percentage of her career from the field. Ajavon's scoring average is down with her minutes this season, but she has maintained her scoring efficiency at a positive level and is fourth in the WNBA in steals per 40 minutes (3.8).

Lacey, who also serves as the Mystics' general manager, rebuilt around those three players. Washington did not have the luxury of its own lottery pick, which went to Minnesota in exchange for center Nicky Anosike prior to the 2011 season, but still had a pair of first-round picks. Washington used a selection originally from Atlanta on Notre Dame wing Natalie Novosel but was unable to find room on the roster for LSU forward LaSondra Barrett, drafted with a pick that came from the Storm in exchange for Katie Smith.

With Anosike leaving for Los Angeles in free agency after one disappointing season with the Mystics, Lacey revamped the center position. Washington dealt second-year forward Victoria Dunlap to the Storm for Ashley Robinson and signed another Tennessee product, Michelle Snow, in free agency. Robinson started early in the season before giving way to Snow, who is fourth on the team in scoring (7.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (6.6 rpg). More recently, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton has gotten backup minutes over Robinson.

At point guard, the Mystics have added Natasha Lacy and Shannon Babbitt to provide depth. Their new starter at the position is sophomore Jasmine Thomas, who stepped in for Dominique Canty just before Canty was waived. Thomas has shown potential as a scorer and distributor, though she must improve her two-point percentage (37.1 percent) to solidify the position for the long term.

As compared to last season, Washington has been more competitive, improving its scoring differential from -8.0 points per game to -6.7. The Mystics suffered a pair of painful losses early in the season, falling by two points to Minnesota at home and at Chicago. Five of the team's seven defeats have come by single digits, including a three-point loss to the Mercury in their last outing. If not for an atypical 31-point blowout at Los Angeles on Monday, Washington would look much better in terms of point differential.

The Storm hopes to wrap up a three-game homestand by extending the season's longest winning streak to four games. Over that span, the Storm has shown improvement at both ends of the court. Tough defense has helped the team cover for occasional scoring droughts, while strong ball movement and Tanisha Wright getting back on track have powered the Storm offense.

Note that Sunday's game will have a special 4 p.m. start time as we celebrate the conclusion to Pride Weekend in Seattle. $5 for every Pride ticket purchased will be donated to the GSBA Scholarship fund in a ceremony during the game. Find our more about how you can get your Pride ticket and support LGBTQA students.

KEY MATCHUP
The Storm only had to face Langhorne once last season. The All-Star forward missed the game in D.C. with lower back pain. Dunlap stepped into the starting lineup and scored a career-high 19 points with eight rebounds. In the other matchup, Camille Little and company did an excellent job of containing Langhorne on the glass. Langhorne did not have a single rebound and finished with 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Little averaged 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in the two matchups. She found some room late in Friday's win over San Antonio running the pick-and-roll with Tanisha Wright.
LAST MEETING

The Mystics made things interesting, but they never led or even tied after scoring the first basket of the game during a 78-71 Storm win at KeyArena last July 12. Seattle maintained control and made the necessary plays down the stretch to win consecutive games for the second time last season. The Storm's offense produced 19 assists and 50.0 percent shooting from the field to make up for Washington going 10-of-17 from beyond the arc.

Sue Bird was, as always, in complete control of the Storm offense. She picked her spots wisely and shot 8-of-14 from the field en route to 22 points. Swin Cash utilized the free throw line to score 20 points, her second time in as many games with 20-plus. Little added 12 and Robinson had a season-high eight off the bench. Wright contributed across the box score, handing out a season-high seven assists and tying her season high with six rebounds.

INJURIES

Storm - Forward Victoria Dunlap (concussion) is questionable.

Washington - None

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