Halfway through the fourth quarter in the Mystics game against the Indiana Fever last night, the jumbotron rallied the fans, asking them all to put four fingers in the air. Somewhere in my long sports education, I clearly had missed a chapter, as I was a bit confused. I was soon informed that this was an old football tradition, to put four fingers in the air to say “we own the fourth quarter.” (Duh.) It was a nice thought, but unfortunately it was Indiana who dominated, holding onto their ample fourth quarter lead to defeat the Mystics 82-70.
“I think our team had some really good spurts where we played really well, and we adjusted throughout the game,” said Mystics Head Coach Julie Plank after the game. “I give our team credit for how we competed. This is a veteran team, they’re an Eastern Conference finals team and I thought we competed with them, and I look forward to playing them next week at their place.”
It was a game of spurts in which Washington found themselves getting hit by Fever players Tammy Sutton-Brown and Tamika Catchings down low and were forced to scrape back to tie the game. And while the Mystics had the lead a handful of times, that lead never grew to more than 4 points. Most of the second half was spent chasing at the heels of Indiana but being unable to capitalize on Fever mistakes.
Contrast this performance with last Saturday’s home win against the New York Liberty (68-67). In that contest, it was the Mystics who were in out front, leading the Liberty by as many as 18 points. They didn’t exactly own the fourth quarter of that game either, however. New York got the game within ten thanks to a pair of threes by Shameka Christon and Sidney Spencer. A couple of Mystics fouls and turnovers later and the Liberty was looking for the tying basket. Luckily, WNBA All-Star Alana Beard was there to ensure that didn’t happen with a fade-away baseline jumpshot.
Though Beard has gotten much attention as the Mystics’ clutch leading scorer (averaging 18.1 ppg), she is quick to point to 5’8″ point guard Lindsey Harding. Harding netted a game-high 23 points, shooting 58% from the field and adding 5 assists in the Liberty game.
“She’s the best thing that possibly could have happened to this team,” Beard told the Associated Press. “When you have a point guard that is aggressive like her, who understands the game and is smart, the game is really easy.” It’s no surprise the two make such a good team, as they, along with Monique Currie, are products of the Duke Blue Devils program.
The Mystics will hit the road to get another go at Indiana and New York next week, but before that can happen, they’ll have Chicago and Sacramento to contend with here at home. Winning both those games will go along way to getting the Mystics, who have gone 3-6 in the past month, closer to the playoffs this fall. Chicago (8-8) currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference and, like Washington (7-7), is 4.5 games back from #1 Indiana. The Mystics have split games with the Sky so far this season, beating the team at home (81-72) and losing in Chicago (63-68).
“Indiana is a great team and they are going to beat a lot of teams, but I think Chicago is a game we need to win,” Coach Plank said. “We’re battling for a playoff spot and I think Chicago is an important game, we need to get that tiebreaker against them.”
This is one of those mid-season match-ups where home court advantage could actually figure for a WNBA team. The past two home games have brought in almost 10,000 fans each for the Mystics, whose attendance was up 15% over last season, according to Sports Business Daily. Sports fans, this is a call to you to get your four fingers up in the Verizon Center tomorrow as the Mystics tip-off against the Sky (7 p.m.), and Sunday in their battle with Sacramento (4 p.m.). Its time they owned the fourth quarter, and a little extra DC love couldn’t hurt.