MINNEAPOLIS – Matee Ajavon did a little bit of everything for the Washington Mystics on Thursday night.
That includes making the winning shot.
Ajavon scored on a driving layup with 21.3 seconds remaining and the Mystics ended a four-game losing streak with a 79-75 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
Ivory Latta had 24 points for Washington (10-13), which moved percentage points ahead of New York for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Monique Currie had 20 points, including two free throws with 3 seconds left. Ajavon finished with 18 points.
"I thought Matee Ajavon played one of the best games she's played that I've seen since she's been in the league," coach Mike Thibault said. "She played well on both ends, she was under control and she made great decisions. She had (a season-high) five steals, five assists and one turnover. We needed all that."
Ajavon didn't do anything fancy to turn in what she admitted was one of her best games.
"I was just simply trying to get my teammates the ball and stay aggressive," she said.
On the winning basket, Ajavon had the ball on the right wing and sliced through three or four defenders before her shot banked gently off the backboard and fell through the net.
After Ajavon's drive, Minnesota's Seimone Augustus missed a 13-foot jumper with 7.9 seconds left, Rebekkah Brunson couldn't control the rebound and the Mystics' Tierra Ruffin-Pratt grabbed the loose ball. Washington had a 44-24 advantage on the boards, the most rebounds by a Lynx opponent this season.
Minnesota played without center Janel McCarville, who missed the game with a concussion sustained in Tuesday's win at San Antonio. Coach Cheryl Reeve said she is day to day.
"It's disappointing, not only to lose the game, but to get destroyed on the glass," Reeve said. "We had a player down in the post, and we did a very, very poor job of filling the void." Centers Amber Harris and forward/center Devereaux Peters combined for zero points and just five rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
With Minnesota struggling in the middle, center Michelle Snow had 11 rebounds for the Mystics, her second-highest total of the season. Starting forwards Currie and Crystal Langhorne had eight each.
"We're desperate for a win and we played with desperation," Thibault said. "If we can play with that kind of energy and effort at both ends every night we might have a little bit better record."
The win was especially satisfying after the Mystics let one slip away in a 93-88 loss Tuesday at New York. Washington led by nine going into fourth quarter and increased it to 14 before the Liberty went on a 20-5 run to take the lead with under 3 minutes to play.
"It shows some growth in our team," Currie said. "This shows us that we can play with anybody in this league. If we come out here and believe in ourselves and play the way we played tonight we can go very far."
Maya Moore scored 24 points and Lindsay Whalen had 19 for the Lynx (17-4), who lost for the first time in 11 games and ended an 18-game home winning streak. Minnesota has lost twice to Washington and twice to Los Angeles.
"They made the plays when they had to and we didn't," Whalen said.
With the teams tied at 65 with less than 7 minutes to play, Ajavon scored on a fast-break layup, Currie scored on a layup and Langhorne scored on a putback with four Lynx players around her as the Mystics took a six-point lead.
After a layup by Augustus, Ajavon and Latta scored on drives to give Washington a 75-67 lead with 2:29 to play.
Moore made a 3-pointer, and after a steal by Monica Wright, Augustus made two free throws to get the Lynx within three points. Augustus, who finished with 18 points, tied the score with 36.4 seconds left with a 3-pointer after both teams scrambled for a loose ball.
Latta scored 19 points in the first half — including four 3-pointers — as the Mystics took a 45-40 lead into the intermission.
"This was a big game for us," Latta said. "I think our season should turnaround from this game. We just have to learn from it and continue to play well and together as a team."