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Mystics hang on to defeat Sun 94-89

The Washington Mystics have started the abbreviated WNBA season 2-0 despite so many personnel losses and so few returning players.

The Connecticut Sun have not done the same.

The Sun managed to cut a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to two with less than two minutes left in Tuesday's game but couldn't get any closer. Ariel Powers scored a career-high 27 points as Washington beat Connecticut on 94-89 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"The margin of victory is very small for this team right now and it's going to be," Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "So when you lose some possessions with turnovers, you miss some layups that you're capable of making; we'll look back at a couple of those (missed) shots down the stretch to tie it (that were) just killers.

"(You're) never happy with a loss. Obviously these guys are competitors and want to win, but we're getting better. (We're) still learning how to play with each other."

It was the first meeting of last season's finalists, but the teams had a combined three starters who started in Game 5 of last year's WNBA Finals in Tuesday's game.

It was another impressive win for the defending WNBA champions given that the Mystics are without four starters from last season and dressed just three players who were on last year's postseason roster — Ariel Atkins, Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and Powers.

Powers started seven of 30 games last season. She shot 10-of-14 against the Sun on Tuesday night.

"Ariel Powers was special tonight against our wings," Miller said. "We've got to figure out how to get some of these great wing players in this league shut down."

Myisha Hines-Allen, who didn't play at all in the Finals, had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Atkins had 16 points and Meesseman added 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Connecticut (0-2) returned just two starters with half of its 12-woman roster being new. DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas shouldered the Sun's offense as they combined to score 57 points.

Bonner, acquired in an offseason trade, played the entire game and scored a game-high 29 with nine rebounds and five assists.

"Today I hit a couple of (outside) shots, so it opened up (space) inside and out," Bonner said. "We both kind of know what we have to do night-in and night-out. I think we attacked the paint and get a couple of easy layups. We missed a couple of easy ones at the end, but I think we did a great job of attacking."

Thomas played over 38 minutes had 28 points and 11 rebounds.

The rest of the Sun shot a combined 10-of-27.

Connecticut trailed by as much as 88-73 with five minutes, 15 seconds left. The Sun proceeded to go on a 16-3 run. Jackie Gemelos, who was signed last month, made two 3-pointers during that run. She was playing in her first WNBA game since Sept. 13, 2015.

Bonner's 3-pointer cut Washington's lead to 91-89 with 1:39 remaining. The Sun got no closer, though.

"What a fight," Miller said. "Really gutty. I looked at my staff and said, 'Should we talk about L.A. (Thursday's opponent)? Should we take out all the starters; fight for another day?

"We decided to roll with it. It was the right decision. Jas looked gassed, so we went with Jackie and Jackie made a couple of big shots, so all of the sudden the momentum turned again."

n.griffen@theday.com

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