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Mercury-Mystics Preview

Jun 24, 2009 - 7:00 PM By MATT BECKER STATS Senior Writer

Phoenix (5-3) at Washington (4-1), 7:00 p.m. EDT

Alana Beard is confident in her ability to score at will. However, she knows that for the Washington Mystics to be successful, she needs to distribute the ball to teammates.

Beard looks to build on her best game of the season and help the Mystics continue their impressive start Thursday night against the Phoenix Mercury, who are trying to avoid a third straight loss.

Beard scored a season-high 31 points in Saturday's 81-72 win over Chicago as Washington improved to 4-1 for the first time since 2006. The Mystics, who finished 10-24 last season, haven't won five of their first six since opening a franchise-best 7-1 in 2002.

Beard, averaging a team-high 20.0 points, made 11 of 18 shots from the field against the Sky and also did a solid job of running the offense, finishing with a team-high five assists. She was named WNBA player of the week Monday.

"I want to get everyone else involved," said Beard, who didn't have an assist in Washington's lone loss, 93-81 at Atlanta on Friday. "I know that I can score at any given point when I put my mind to it, but if you're out there by yourself, you're not going to win. I've had five years of experience like that, but I think I've grown a lot."

Last year, Beard averaged team highs of 16.1 points and 3.5 assists for a Washington club that finished with the second-worst record in the league.

The Mystics lost both games against the Mercury last season and Beard finished with 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting in their last meeting, a 98-90 home defeat June 24, 2008.

Phoenix (5-3) is coming off Tuesday's 91-87 loss to San Antonio, its second defeat in a row after a fast start to the season.

The Mercury led the Silver Stars 87-83 after a Diana Taurasi free throw with 2:43 remaining, but they committed three turnovers and missed all four field-goal attempts the rest of the way.

"It was the seven turnovers in the fourth quarter," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "And those offensive rebounds they got, maybe like four or five in the last two minutes, that gave them a second shot."

The Mercury lead the league with 91.4 points per game, but their up-tempo style of play has stalled. They're averaging 85.5 points on 41.9 percent shooting in their last two games after scoring 102.7 points and shooting 49.6 percent in winning the previous three.

Phoenix had no trouble offensively against the Mystics last season, finishing with 98 points in each matchup.

Taurasi tops the Mercury with 22.5 points per game this year and averaged 30.0 on 61.8 percent shooting versus Washington in 2008.

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