WASHINGTON—— Five games is hardly enough time to establish a trend — good, bad or indifferent.
And the team that trailed start to finish Sunday in a 69-65 loss to the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center won't be the same as soon as center Sandrine Gruda arrives from France this week.
But one thing about the Connecticut Sun is clear.
"We're going to have to learn to play better at the start of games on the road," coach Mike Thibault said
Both of the Sun's losses have been the result of poor ignition on the road.
The Mystics (4-3) snapped a three-game losing streak, despite arriving home from Los Angeles at 4 p.m. Saturday and not practicing. They had four players score in double figures, led by guard Monique Currie, who had 18 points. Center Crystal Langhorne had 17 points and 16 rebounds — nine on the offensive end.
The Sun (3-2) were led by Tina Charles, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Kelsey Griffin and Renee Montgomery each scored 10, but the Sun shot just 38.8 percent (26-for-67) just three days after scoring 105 at home against Minnesota.
"We hung in during an ugly game in which we didn't play very well," Thibault said. "We had a chance. But our turnovers (20) and poor shooting killed us."
Asjha Jones returned after a prolonged absence caused by a sore left Achilles' tendon. She had three points and three rebounds in 12 minutes
"It was terrible," Jones said. "As soon as I got into the game, Langhorne was able to get a couple of offensive boards and that's not exactly what I had hoped for. That's what she's good at. To know that and not be able to do something about it was tough."
Jones had not played for the Sun since Aug, 14 at Washington, where she had 23 points (10-for-15 from the floor). She missed the last 11 games of the 2009 season after the discomfort became more than she could stand.
Jones had surgery on the leg in February after playing half a season in Russia and has been rehabbing ever since. After saying Jones was likely to return Friday at home against New York, Thibault decided to spring her on the Mystics.
The Sun were without Kerri Gardin, who will be out for at least a week with a concussion. But the Mystics were supposedly working on half a tank after a third consecutive loss Friday night in Los Angeles. And they didn't have guard Katie Smith (lower back distress).
Still, the Sun trailed 33-26 at the end of a lethargic half.
"It was kind of choppy, a lot of fouls, a lot of whistles," Kara Lawson said. "And it was hard for us to get into a flow, even though I felt we had many quality looks. We just weren't able to hit the shots. Still, I felt good going into the half because we were so anemic and were down only seven.
The Mystics led 16-6 with 3:26 to play in the first quarter after a basket by Lindsay Harding (10 points, 5-for-7). The Sun could not make a shot, especially from the perimeter, where they were 0-for-9 in the first half (4-for-17 in the game). They had nine threes Thursday against the Lynx.
Washington expanded its lead in the third quarter, opening a 12-point margin (48-36) on the strength of a balanced offense. Currie, Langhorne and Harding kept the pressure on the Sun, although Harding, the former Duke standout, had to come out of the game for a few minutes after landing hard on her shoulder on a drive to the basket.
Langhorne's seventh offensive rebound in the early moments of the fourth quarter led to her own three-point play, which made the mountain even steeper for the Sun.
Montgomery finally led a rally with eight straight points, including two three-pointers that cut Washington's lead to 56-53 with 6:52 to play.
But neither team had consecutive baskets the rest of way, exchanging points 13 straight times.
"I felt the momentum of the game beginning to change and we thought we'd put some more scores together," Montgomery said. "But a missed assignment here, little problems there. … It's just another thing that comes along when you haven't played together for a very long time."