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A Few Quick Notes on the WNBA Playoffs

Though Alana Beard and her Washington Mystics lost today vs New York,
they still clinched a playoff spot yesterday against Phoenix. What's
amazing is that they did it without star player Chamique Holdsclaw. In
fact, the team went 7-4 without her in the lineup after July 28th, going
from a 10-14 team that was in last place to a playoff team. There's
absolutely no question that Beard was the catalyst for this
transformation. Beard scored 20 or more points in her last five games
after only doing it 3 times in her first 29 games and averaged 17 ppg in
Holdsclaw's absence. More importantly, the Mystics started playing like a
team. Rookie coach Michael Adams had stated that he wanted 70-80% of the
team's offense to run through Holdsclaw. As a result, he got a lot of
standing around while Holdsclaw put up big numbers as the team absorbed
loss after loss. With the offense running through Beard instead, he
suddenly got big contributions from posts Chasity Melvin & Nakia Sanford,
while Beard continued to play her all-out style of defense. Amazingly,
the Mystics tied their own team record for wins this year. Noted
WNBA analyst Barry Uhrman put together the following numbers on Beard:

Games 1-18:
7.6 points per game, 32.8 percent from the floor, 9.1 percent from three,
and 62.1 percent from the line. (The nadir came on July 15th, when she
put up a gooseegg in only 11 minutes of playing time. Beard responded
with her hot streak right after that.)

Games 19-34:
19.3 points per game, 47.2 percent from the floor, 55.9 percent from three,
and 79.5% percent from the line.

The ultimate difference between how Beard is playing now and how she
played earlier in the year was shown in microcosm during today's game.
She started off 0-6 and had just 2 points at halftime. Earlier in the
year, Beard might have lost confidence in herself and concentrated on
defense, especially if Holdsclaw was there to take all the shots. The
Mystics didn't have that luxury in this game, so Alana gathered herself
and put a hurting on New York in the second half, at one point scoring 19
consecutive points for her team. Duke fans saw it all the time during her
career in Durham, where Beard would overcome an average first half with an
inspired performance.

Washington will play Connecticut in the first round of the playoffs.
The Mystics finished 1-3 against them in the regular season, though only
played them once (and beat them) post-Holdsclaw. The playoff format is
best-of-three, with the Mystics opening up the series at home. The Sun
have an edge with homecourt and with matchups, but the Mystics have been
playing well against everyone of late. The Mystics open up with the Sun
on Saturday, September 25th at noon; this game will be on the Oxygen

Meanwhile, Detroit will get a chance to defend their WNBA title, but
must do so without star wing Swin Cash. This means Iciss Tillis has a
real chance at more playing time. The Shock will be matched up against
the New York Liberty, whom they defeated on the 14th. Iciss played 22
minutes in that game and had 8 points, so don't be surprised to see more
of the same. Detroit will host New York on Friday, September 24th.