Streaking Mystics hold off late Fever rally

WASHINGTON -- Katie Smith made five 3-pointers for a season-high 21 points, Crystal Langhorne finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and the Washington Mystics held off the Indiana Fever 68-65 on Tuesday night.

The Mystics (10-5) have won six of their last seven overall and improved to 7-1 at home.

Trailing by nine with 4:16 left, Katie Douglas' 3-pointer with 55.8 seconds to go capped a 10-2 run and pulled the Fever to 66-65. Indiana, however, failed to score on its final three possessions.

Smith made two free throws to put the Mystics up three but missed a pair with 7.7 seconds left, their only misses on 12 attempts in the fourth quarter.

Indiana's Briann January pulled up to attempt a tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds but Matee Ajavon stripped the ball away and the Mystics beat their Eastern Conference rivals for the second time this season.

"It was a good effort," Smith said. "Both of us defensive teams ... you know it's going to go down to the wire. People made plays when they needed to on both ends of the floor."

Indiana won all six meetings between the two squads last season, including two straight in the playoffs to win their first-round matchup. Washington won on the road in the Fever's season opener this year and backed that up with a hard-fought win at home.

"It's fun. It is a chess match," said Smith, who joined Washington as a free agent in the offseason. "These are fun games because these are kind of like playoff games."

Tamika Catchings, who had her streak of 31 consecutive games in double figures end on Sunday, led the Fever (9-6) with 17 points and her free throws with 3:31 remaining started the failed closing run. Douglas scored 13 points. The two stars led the Fever with four rebounds, a number far too small to compete with the bigs on the Mystics.

"I'm really disappointed in our team because we knew coming in this was a great rebounding team, No. 1 in the league in rebounding," Catchings said. "We knew that, we talked about that, we talked about boxing out. We did play great defense for 23 seconds, 22 seconds and then they would get the offensive rebound."

In a game where both teams made the same amount of 3-pointers and Washington finished with only one more made field goal and free throw than the Fever, the difference was the Mystics' pursuit of offensive rebounds. They held 35-24 edge in rebounding, including 12 offensive boards and that translated into 16 second-chance points.

"We just really wanted to be aggressive on the glass," Langhorne said. "We know that even when shots aren't falling, you can always rebound and go the glass."

"I think the unfortunate thing for us is we gave up so many second-chance points," said Fever coach Lin Dunn, whose squad entered the game allowing the fewest points (71.6) in the league. "We worked so hard on defense and then to not come up with the box out in my mind was the difference in the game. Any time you give up 16 second-chance points, you really have a problem."

Langhorne, who had four offensive rebounds, was the biggest interior problem for the Fever. The third-year post player entered the game averaging 27.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and shooting 69 percent (34-for-49) from the field over her last three games. She noted following her last outing that she was taking advantage of opponents covering her with one player, and the Fever doubled her throughout. Still, Langhorne shot 7-for-9 and picked up her fourth straight double-double, sixth of the season.

Trailing 38-35 with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter, Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Mystics even and they didn't trail again after she added two free throws to put them up 43-41. Tied at 47, Ajavon hit a pair of jumpers and scored the final five points of the quarter for a 50-45 lead.

After a tight first quarter with neither side able to lead by more than two points, the Mystics gained some breathing room with an 8-0 run capped by consecutive 3-pointers by Smith for a 26-18 lead.

The Fever rallied and took a 32-31 lead on January's 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the first half, but Marissa Coleman's putback gave the Mystics a 33-32 lead at the break.

"Bottom line, Katie Smith torched us with her five 3s," Dunn said. "She was really difficult to defend tonight and she hasn't been shooting that well. We must bring out the best in her."