McCray, Mystics enjoy moment of 1-0 perfection

Beating Orlando, 92-66, in season opener gets first-ever winning record

June 01, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - After a visit to the whirlpool in the Washington Mystics' locker room, Nikki McCray bounced into the seat in front of her locker and took in a moment that has been three years in coming.

McCray, who has been the cornerstone of the lowly Mystics franchise since its inception in the WNBA three seasons ago, has only known the heartache of coming up short, particularly through seasons that ended 3-27 and 12-20.

So, after last night's season-opening 92-66 win over the Orlando Miracle, which gives the Mystics their first winning record ever, McCray was sure to drink it in.

"It's been a long time coming, but there's a lot more to do," McCray said. "There's a sense of urgency here, because we know that we can win."

That's very heady stuff from a player on a team with that kind of track record, but the Mystics (1-0) swear that this is a changed team with aspirations that reach beyond just staying in games.

McCray and teammate Chamique Holdsclaw, who finished fourth and fifth in the league in scoring last season, respectively, are certainly the foundation for the team's optimism.

McCray hit six three-pointers - four in the second half - on the way to 26 points, and Holdsclaw, her fellow Tennessee alumna, had a career-best 29 points, along with 12 rebounds.

Holdsclaw and McCray were especially impressive in the decisive sequence, leading an 11-2 run in the final four minutes, as Holdsclaw first scored on a tip-in off an inbound, followed by a McCray three-pointer on the right wing, which preceded a Holdsclaw lay-in on a behind-the-back pass from McCray.

"I was picking on them," said center Murriel Page. "I told them, `I see that Tennessee connection.' I wanted to get in on that, too."

What made the Mystics connect last night, before an MCI Center crowd of 14, 421, the smallest in three season openers, was a heretofore nonexistent interior game.

Page, who like McCray, is the only remaining holdover from the first disastrous season, had 15 points, mostly off putbacks, and eight rebounds.

Meanwhile, newly acquired forward Vicky Bullett, a Maryland grad, and reserve center Tausha Mills, combined for 12 points and 12 rebounds, to provide Holdsclaw and McCray the inside support they've never had.

"We know what Murriel can do and Vicky is a proven veteran," said Holdsclaw, who drew her first career technical foul, in the second half. "And when Tausha is in there, she just takes up space and as she gets more comfortable, we'll have so much room to drive and operate."

The Mystics not only won a season opener for the first time, but also broke a franchise record for most points scored in a game, and against a good Miracle team that not only finished three games ahead of Washington in their inaugural season, but also beat it three of four times.

"Washington came out and hit big shots, and that kind of takes the wind out of your sails," said Orlando coach Carolyn Peck. "They've improved since last year."

Indeed, the Mystics, who blew a 13-point, first-half lead to trail by two at the half, blew the game open with a dazzling second half, in which they shot 65 percent from the floor.

But there is a lot of season to be played and the team, after traveling to Cleveland on Saturday, meets the defending Eastern champion New York Liberty Sunday in a nationally televised showdown here.

"We have to take care of business in the East, so we'll appreciate this and get ready for this weekend," Page said.

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