Washington playing stellar defense during winning streak

DOUG FEINBERG (AP Basketball Writer)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Washington Mystics have gotten downright defensive.

The Mystic's stellar defensive effort has helped coach Mike Thibault's squad win five in a row which has landed Washington atop The Associated Press WNBA power poll Tuesday. The Mystics are second in the league in points allowed, giving up just 73.2 a game.

''It's held its own for five straight games now, and that's why we have five wins,'' Thibault said. ''We're holding teams in the 30-something percent (shooting) range . Our team has committed themselves to the defensive end of the floor.''

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The winning streak has come against some of the best teams in the league. Washington completed a 4-0 road trip with routs of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Mystics then returned home and handed Connecticut - which had beaten Washington twice already this year- one of the worst losses in WNBA history: a 102-59 thumping.

''We frustrated them with our defense today. That's been the goal for the last two weeks,'' Thibault said after the win.

Washington now heads back west to face Los Angeles and Las Vegas again.

POWER POLL

A look at this week's WNBA poll:

1. Washington (9-3): It's not just defense that has propelled the Mystics to the top of the standings. They also average a league-best 86.8 points a game.

2. Connecticut (9-4): The Sun limp home after going winless on a three-game road trip. Connecticut also lost backup point guard Layshia Clarendon for a few months after injuring her right ankle in practice.

3. Seattle (8-6): It seems almost every day another Storm player gets injured, yet Seattle keeps finding ways to win and stay competitive. Jewell Loyd was the latest to get hurt, injuring her ankle while going for a layup. Fortunately it was only a sprain and she'll be back in a few weeks.

4. Las Vegas (7-5): A'ja Wilson had career-high 39 points in an overtime win against Indiana; the Aces have started to come together offensively.

5. Los Angeles (6-6): The Sparks have won consecutive games and Candace Parker is playing more like her old self as she gets back into game-shape. Parker missed the start of season with hamstring injury.

6. Phoenix (5-5): Diana Taurasi has been practicing and could be ready to go in the Mercury's game against New York on Friday.

7. Minnesota (6-6): The Lynx lost Karima Christmas-Kelly to a season-ending knee injury. Stephanie Talbot replaced her in the starting lineup and has done a nice job.

8. Chicago (6-6): It's been a disappointing road trip so far for the Sky, who have dropped three straight away from home.

9. New York (5-7): There is optimism around the Liberty after consecutive wins. Road games at Seattle and Phoenix will be a good barometer for just how much New York has really improved.

10. Dallas (4-7): Wings doubled their win total on the season with victories over Connecticut and Minnesota. Dallas was one point short of topping New York to have a three-game winning streak.

11. Indiana (5-9): After seemingly flying all over the country the past week the Fever were happy to have a couple days off to rest. The Fever had 22 hours of travel just getting back from Seattle last week. The team had two overnight flights into Phoenix and Las Vegas after playing Minnesota at home. The Fever will try to end a four-game skid when they visit Dallas on Friday.

12. Atlanta (2-8): It just hasn't come together this season for Atlanta. The good news is the Dream are only three games out of a playoff spot despite losing eight of their first 10 games.

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Elena Delle Donne earned player of the week honors for the second consecutive time after helping Washington win two games, averaging 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Others receiving votes included Brittney Griner of Phoenix, A'ja Wilson of Las Vegas and Tina Charles of New York.

SHOOTER'S MENTALITY

Dallas rookie Arike Ogunbowale showed she can handle adversity and prosperity this week. The rookie scored 23 points, including banking in a go-ahead 3-pointer, in a one-point win over Connecticut. The Notre Dame grad followed that up with the worst shooting performance, according to STATS, in WNBA history for a player taking more than 20 shots when she went 2-for-23 in a one-point loss to New York on Friday . Not deterred, the fifth pick in the draft came back and scored 19 points making seven of 12 shots in a victory over Minnesota on Sunday.

''I knew she was going to bounce back. I am more concerned about her incline and growth defensively and distributing the ball,'' Wings coach Brian Agler said. ''When you are a scorer like that, and she is one of many, you are going to have games where you can't make anything and the most important thing is how you bounce back and she responded very well today.''

GAME OF THE WEEK

Mystics at Aces, Friday. Two of the top teams in the league will square off with the Mystics looking to continue their five-game winning streak.

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Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

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