Ivory Latta, Mystics hold off struggling Fever (1-5)

WASHINGTON -- A lot has changed for the Washington Mystics and defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever.

Ivory Latta scored 17 points, and Crystal Langhorne had all 16 of her points in the second half to help the Mystics win their third straight game, 64-60 victory over the slumping Fever on Sunday.

Monique Currie scored 10 points for the Mystics (4-1), riding their longest winning streak since closing the 2010 season with six straight. Langhorne, who made all five of her field-goal attempts, broke a 58-58 tie with four straight free throws in the final 23.9 seconds.

In 2012, the Mystics finished 5-29. In the last 10 days under new coach Mike Thibault, Washington has beaten Indiana and Minnesota, last year's WNBA finalists, and Connecticut, the team Thibault coached to the Eastern Conference regular-season title. Five points or less decided all three victories

"We're pulling out games," Langhorne said. "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."

Shavonte Zellous led the short-handed Fever (1-5) with 17 points, and Tamika Catchings scored 16, but the defending champions dropped their fifth straight game.

Thibault, fired by the Sun after last season and hired by the Mystics in December, reminded his team mid-game about feeding Langhorne inside. Last year's leading scorer did not attempt a field goal in the first half.

"At halftime, I reintroduced (Langhorne) to her teammates," the coach cracked. "Told them she plays on our team and it would be a good thing if they threw her the ball once in a while."

Late in the game Langhorne, who entered making only 41.7 percent of her free throws, did not rely on others for ball possession. Her first pair of free throws came after maneuvering past Catchings to grab Latta's air ball. Langhorne was fouled on the attempted putback.

"Down the stretch, the key play was definitely the missed box out," Catchings said. "Langhorne got the key rebound over me and that kind of sparked them."

On Indiana's next possession, Langhorne and Michelle Snow altered Karima Christmas' game-tying layup attempt. Langhorne picked up the loose ball and returned to the free throw line after a foul by Christmas with 7.8 seconds left.

Latta added two free throws in the final seconds as Washington made 16 of 19 overall.

"The chemistry is building," Latta said. "I'm glad it's building in the fourth quarter. Indiana is a great team and they're out a couple of people, but at the same time we're getting better each and every day."

The Fever played their fourth straight game without All-Star Katie Douglas, out since May 31 with a bulging disk in her lower back. Injuries have kept Jessica Davenport, Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen off the court all season.

Indiana lost its two previous games by a combined 27 points including Wednesday's 73-61 setback against the Sun.

"We played a lot better tonight then we did the last game against Connecticut," Catchings said. "We put ourselves in a position to win the game even though we didn't get over the hump. We made some critical mistakes down the stretch."

The Father's Day win was the 210th overall for Thibault, whose son Eric is an assistant with Washington. The active leader in wins among WNBA coaches, Thibault is just one behind Van Chancellor's record of 211 victories.