Mystics-Sun Preview

The Associated Press

Backed by an uncharacteristically strong road stretch, the Washington Mystics are on the verge of clinching their first Eastern Conference playoff appearance in three seasons.

The Connecticut Sun are simply trying to avoid the longest losing streak in franchise history.

While they'll need some help to make it official, the Mystics hope to do their part with their fourth win in five road games Friday night against the WNBA-worst Sun.

Washington (14-15), third in the East, can wrap up its first postseason berth since 2010 with a victory at Connecticut and a New York loss to Atlanta. The Mystics also have a chance to gain ground on the Dream for the second seed, trailing by two games with five remaining.

"It's a great feeling because the past two years have been pretty bad," said Crystal Langhorne, who had 18 points and nine rebounds to key the Mystics' 74-63 home win over Connecticut on Aug. 11.

Langhorne also finished with 10 points and 10 boards as Washington continued its recent road surge with an 85-80 overtime victory at Atlanta on Aug. 28.

After dropping 31 of 34 away from home the previous two seasons, the Mystics have improved to 6-9 this year. They've won three of their last four on the road during a 5-2 run overall.

"This team is learning to be resilient,'' said coach Mike Thibault, who held the same position with the Sun from 2003-12. "A year ago, from watching them afar, these are the games they couldn't win, but we found a way to win those this year.''

Monique Currie, Tayler Hill and Ivory Latta each had 15 points last week in Atlanta to lead the Mystics. Since totaling 18 points over a three-game span, Currie has regrouped by scoring 30 on 9-of-19 shooting in her last two.

Washington snapped a nine-game skid against the Sun (7-22) with a 66-62 victory in Thibault's return to Connecticut on June 7. Latta had 17 as the Mystics closed that game on a 15-2 run.

Connecticut has dropped seven straight overall by an average of 14.0 points, matching the franchise record for consecutive losses set from July 21-Aug. 4, 2000. The Sun were eliminated from the playoff race with a 76-68 loss at Phoenix on Saturday.

"We gave up a couple of (offensive) boards that were a huge difference down the stretch,'' coach Anne Donovan said. "We had some good looks but it was defensively that we had some lapses at the end.''

Tina Charles, who led the Sun with 16 points and 13 rebounds, ranks second in the league in rebounding (10.1 per game) and is tied for sixth in scoring (18.0 ppg). The All-Star center has certainly given the Mystics trouble, totaling 39 points and 24 rebounds against them.