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With their top two players out for the season with knee injuries, the Silver Stars could go through the motions for the next two months and hope to land the top pick in the WNBA lottery.

But that's not going to happen.

Even without Becky Hammon and Sophia Young, two of the best players in the league, the Silver Stars are a gritty bunch that takes pride in playing basketball the right way and giving fans their money's worth.

Friday night's 83-73 loss to the Washington Mystics dropped the Silver Stars to 4-9, but they're not playing as poorly as their record may indicate.

Playing before a crowd of 11,268 at the AT&T Center, the Silver Stars showed glimpses of how good they could be if they found their groove and developed some consistency.

But the Silver Stars fell behind early and although they battled back, it was too little, too late.

I'm disappointed in us because I felt that was a game that we really should have won, but we kind of lost it in the first half, forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. We made a tremendous effort in the second half, but we were a day late and a dollar short. Had we opened the game up the way we should have, defensively and offensively, then we'd have a different outcome and I'd be singing a different tune right now.

There are no quick fixes, but becoming more focused and playing harder for four quarters, especially on defense and under the boards, would be good starting points for the Silver Stars to turn around their season.

Silver Stars made strong run in third quarter

Washington (7-7) outrebounded the Silver Stars 44-25 and had 20 more free-throw attempts (33-13) Friday night. It's tough to win when you're on the short end of those two statistical categories.

In short, the Mystics beat the Silver Stars because they were more aggressive on both ends of the court from the outset.

Most definitely, Milton-Jones said.

Trailing 49-36 at halftime, the Silver Stars outscored the Mystics 23-12 in the third period to trail by only two points heading into the final quarter.

The Silver Stars took a 62-61 lead on a 3-pointer by Cathrine Kraayeveld 15 seconds into the fourth period, but the Mystics went ahead on their next possession and never trailed again.

The game, to me, was won or lost in the first half, putting ourselves in that kind of deficit and really not having a strong half, Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. It made us have to do an awful lot right in the second half, and we weren't able to quite get it done. We didn't come into the first half with the discipline of what we wanted to do.

That's honestly where this team's at. I wish I could tell you that we've mastered our identity, but we haven't. What we have is a situation where we have glimpses of what we're doing. We came off a game where we had two good halves. But we're still developing that consistency that goes with playing two good halves of basketball.

The Silver Stars beat Phoenix 88-80 on the road Wednesday to snap a three-game skid.

Hughes: 'We are what we are'

Young, who led the Silver Stars in scoring, rebounding and steals last year, has been sidelined since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while playing in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association playoffs in late January.

A seven-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon missed the first 10 games of the season before returning to action against the Los Angeles Sparks last Saturday. She tore the ACL in her left knee in the second quarter and had surgery this week.

Hughes refused to use the injuries as excuses for the Silver Stars' uneven play.

We are what we are, he said. We haven't taken care of the things we can take care of, so it's really got nothing to do with the injuries. It's got to do with the consistency of this group. That's really what it's about.

Guard Jia Perkins led the Silver Stars with 22 points, hitting 10 of 21 shots, including 2 of 5 from 3-point range. Shenise Johnson and Danielle Adams finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

We just can't dig ourselves in a hole early on in the first half, Perkins said. I don't think we played our style of defense first off. But second half, we tried to change it. We just kind of burned out and ran out of energy in the fourth quarter. We just have to stay together.

I think we're still trying to find our identity. Me, personally, I think our identity is going to be in our defense. That's an every-night thing. We have to stick with our game plan and run it for two halves. We didn't do that today. Scoring-wise, everybody on the team can score. If we get multiple people in double digits, that's good for us.

The Silver Stars go on the road for two games before resuming their home schedule against Minnesota next Friday. They play at Connecticut on Sunday and at Washington on Tuesday.
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