With back-to-back victories over last season’s WNBA finalists, the Washington Mystics have a chance to match last season’s win total.
They’ll have to end a seven-game skid in Seattle against the Storm for that to happen Tuesday night.
After defeating Minnesota 85-80 on June 8, Washington (4-1) extended its winning streak to three with Sunday’s 64-60 victory over defending champion Indiana.
The Mystics, a league-worst 5-29 last season, have won all of their games by five points or fewer to jump out to their quickest start since opening a franchise-best 7-1 in 2002.
“We’re pulling out games,” said Crystal Langhorne, who scored all 16 of her points in the second half Sunday. “The past few years in the last five minutes of a game, we would lose it. This year we’re showing a whole different mentality. We’re closing out games.”
Washington is also getting the job done outside the nation’s capital, winning both times after finishing 1-16 as the road team in 2012. The Mystics can match the second-longest road winning streak in team history - the record is four in 2007 - as they begin a three-game trip.
Washington, though, is winless in Seattle since 2005 after falling 72-55 in its last visit June 24.
The Storm (2-3) have won four straight overall in this series, but this team is still searching for an identity with stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson out for the season with injuries.
“Our mindset is to fight through everything,” Camille Little said after scoring 15 points with nine rebounds and five assists in Sunday’s 78-66 road win over Connecticut. “You can make excuses if you want, but nobody cares if Sue and Lauren aren’t playing. Nobody cares what may or may not be going on with our team. We have to believe in ourselves and fight through everything, and tonight we showed that.”
The Storm are also showing they can clamp down on defense, holding their last two opponents to a combined 41.4 percent from the field.
“We were aggressive (defensively), and it sparked our offense,” Little said.
Seattle, averaging a league-low 67.8 points, shot a season-best 51.4 percent against the Sun after hitting a season-low 33.9 percent in its previous game, a 68-59 loss at Atlanta on Friday.
Veteran forward Tina Thompson, the Storm’s leading scorer (12.2 ppg) and rebounder (5.0), averaged 8.5 points and 2.0 boards against Washington in 2012.
Langhorne had 41 points and 16 rebounds in those contests to lead all players.
Mystics guard Ivory Latta, a teammate of Seattle’s Temeka Johnson in Tulsa last season, is among the WNBA’s best with 19.8 points per contest. She’s shooting 48.7 percent, including an 8-for-14 effort from 3-point range, in the team’s longest undefeated stretch since a six-game winning streak to end 2010.
“The chemistry is building,” Latta said.
Another victory would pull first-year Mystics coach Mike Thibault into a tie with Van Chancellor for the most wins in league history with 211.