WASHINGTON – Last season, the Washington Mystics often faded during the waning minutes of games while finishing with only five wins.
Two days ago, the Minnesota Lynx looked unbeatable, scoring 99 points in a flashy offensive performance in a 20-point win. That effort did not carry over to their first road game while Washington certainly did not resemble a last-place team.
Ivory Latta scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half and Monique Currie had 23 as the Mystics fended off Minnesota's fourth quarter rally and beat the Lynx 85-80 on Saturday night.
Currie scored 18 in the first half and combined with Latta to shoot 17 for 26 on field goals for the Mystics (3-1). Coupled with Friday's 66-62 victory at Connecticut, Washington has won consecutive games for the first time since 2010.
"We're more than halfway to our total wins from last year just four games in," said Currie, one of only four players left from last season's team that finished 5-29. "It feels great. We've been working hard and we deserve to finally kind of change the tide of what has been happening here."
Maya Moore scored 22 points and Rebekkah Brunson had 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Lynx (2-1), who shot 38.5 percent from the field and 62 percent (13 of 21) at the foul line. Seimone Augustus also scored 21 for Minnesota, which had won four straight over the Mystics.
Moore and Augustus, both members of the U.S. women's gold medal-winning Olympic team along with guard Lindsay Whalen, shot a combined 15 of 44 on their field goal attempts.
The Mystics led after each of the first three quarters and took a 67-58 advantage into the fourth. However, Minnesota used a 10-1 run to tie the score at 68-all.
Moore fouled out with 1:33 remaining on Tierra Ruffin-Pratt's layup that put Washington in front for good at 75-73.
"I guess it can't help to have our Olympian on the bench, but our Olympians didn't play like Olympians today so I'm not sure it would have made much difference," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
Kia Vaughn's turnaround jumper gave the Mystics a 79-75 lead. Washington made all six of its free-throw attempts in the final 15 seconds, including two from Latta, who was emotional after the win due to the passing of her grandfather earlier in the week.
After winning only 11 games over the previous two seasons, Washington hired former Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault as coach and general manager in December. The Mystics off to their best start since opening the 2010 season 3-0.
"We had to hang on for dear life, but we got stops at the end when we needed to," Thibault said. "I'm really proud of them. It was a hell of a win."
Thibault was fired by the Sun following the 2012 season after leading Connecticut to eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons, including trips to the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005.
Not only did he turn over the Mystics' roster after his hiring, but perhaps the franchise's direction as well.
"Last year and the year before we had a lot of close games but weren't able to finish," Currie said. "That's the difference this year; 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."
Minnesota opened the season with two wins at home by a combined 36 points, trailing for a total of 32 seconds in the victories. The Lynx never led during the final three quarters against Washington.
"We hung in there, we tied the game, had a chance, but just didn't finish the game the way that you have to when you're on the road," Reeve said.
After their win at Connecticut the previous night, the Mystics flew back home Saturday morning, arriving in Washington at 7:30 a.m., but it was the Lynx with the sleepy start.
"You would have thought we were on the back-to-back with the low energy that we played with," Reeve said.
Currie had a season-high 10 points against the Sun, but topped that with 13 in the first quarter against Minnesota, making all her six of her field goal attempts.
"We came out aggressive, we played hard," Currie said. "We hit them first before they hit us."
Washington led 23-20 after one and 43-36 at halftime.