Mystics' dive deepens in loss to Fever

Catchings' hot hand leads Indiana to 64-55 victory

Pro Basketball

August 07, 2002|By Travis Haney | Travis Haney,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The fairy tale that once was the Washington Mystics has slowly evolved into a full-blown film noir. The latest installment of the feel-good story gone bad came last night when the Mystics lost to the Indiana Fever, 64-55, in front of 14,986 at MCI Center.

The loss to the Fever (13-15) was Washington's seventh in a row, the fifth straight defeat at home. The Mystics (15-13) must win at least two of their final four games to guarantee that they won't slip out of the four-team Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Washington is in second place in the East, a half game ahead of third-place Charlotte and two games behind New York, which it will play tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.

Washington probably won't miss the playoffs, but with each loss, the idea, which was preposterous a month ago, becomes more conceivable.

"I wouldn't say it's a crisis, but it's really frustrating," said Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw, who played with injuries to both ankles and sore knees last night, struggling to score 11 points and grab nine rebounds.

"It seems like in the past we've always been waiting to see how other teams do. We just wanted to control our own destiny, and now that's getting tougher. That's what frustrating."

Each night of the losing streak, which started with a home loss to Utah on July 20, has offered something different in terms of a reason. Last evening, it was a Fever rookie who was the key.

Indiana forward Tamika Catchings had 28 points, finishing four shy of her career high, on 10-for-20 shooting. She also had 10 rebounds. Olympia Scott-Richardson added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Fever.

Catchings hit her first three-point basket, from beyond the NBA arc, with 10 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first half. It was at that point that she decided a long-distance approach would serve her well for the remainder of the game.

The 6-foot-1 Catchings ended up hitting five of 12 shots from three-point range.

The most important of the threes came with 4:06 to play when she backed away from a Washington defender and hit a fadeaway from the top of the key to put the Fever ahead 57-49.

The shot, which came just after Annie Burgess beat the shot clock and banked in a three at the opposite end of the floor, extinguished any thoughts of a Mystics rally.

"Well, that's what I'm here for," Catchings said. "My teammates put me in a position to be able to create a little bit to get open shots."

Catchings appears to be a lock for the league's Rookie of the Year honor, but some are beginning to believe she should be consider for Most Valuable Player.

"I think she has to be thought of in those terms," Fever coach Nell Fortner said. "She is an MVP-caliber player. She has the stats to go along with it."

However much Catchings was on, her former Tennessee teammate, Holdsclaw, was off.

Holdsclaw, who missed Sunday's loss at Miami with yet another ankle injury, this time a slight sprain of the right ankle, scored only two points on 1-for-10 shooting in the second half. She especially struggled down the stretch, failing to convert four shots that could have cut the Fever's lead to two with less than a minute to play.

Sun staff writer Milton Kent contributed to this article.

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