Even after President Barack Obama praised the Indiana Fever for their 2012 WNBA championship, Tamika Catchings couldn't help but lament the team's early struggles in 2013.
It's been quite the opposite for the surprising Washington Mystics.
The defending champs look to end a four-game skid while putting a damper on Washington's best start in three years Sunday in the nation's capital.
Indiana visited the White House on Friday to celebrate the team's first title, but Catchings had a business-like mentality soon after the event. The Fever (1-4) are off to their worst start since 2001 after falling 73-61 to Connecticut on Wednesday.
"Right now, our backs are against the wall," Catchings said. "We've got a lot of players injured and a lot of players out, but it's a motivating factor being (at the White House) and having this opportunity. We have to get refocused.''
All-Star Katie Douglas hasn't played since May 31, while Jessica Davenport, Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen have yet to take the court this season.
It's uncertain if Douglas will be able to go Sunday.
Shavonte Zellous, averaging a team-best 18.4 points, scored 14 and Catchings added 11 on Wednesday as Indiana shot a season-worst 34.3 percent. It's averaging 70.4 points, second worst in the WNBA.
"We are just missing too many open shots. We are beat up," coach Lin Dunn said. "We're not clicking on all cylinders. We had mental breakdowns by our younger players.''
While the Fever continue to struggle, the Mystics are surging after winning only five games last season.
First-year coach Mike Thibault has Washington (3-1) off to its best start since winning the first three games of 2010. The Mystics beat defending Western Conference champion Minnesota 85-80 last Saturday.
"We have a chance to get on a little bit of a roll if we can get a win on Sunday," Thibault said.
The coach's biggest contribution may have been convincing free-agent guard Ivory Latta to sign with Washington during the offseason. Latta scored 24 points in the last contest and ranks second in the league averaging 20.5 while adding a team-best 4.5 assists per game.
Monique Currie, who scored a season-best 23 points against Minnesota, suffered through last year's 5-29 effort and sees many differences in this squad.
''We're more than halfway to our total wins from last year just four games in,'' Currie said. "We've been working hard and we deserve to finally kind of change the tide of what has been happening here. We're a lot more attentive, a lot more focused and I think we believe in ourselves a little bit more than we did last year.''
Washington hasn't won three straight since 2010.
The Fever took three of four from the Mystics last season.