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Hard to beat the defending champs three times in a row

The Mystics travel to Indiana to take on the Fever at 7 p.m. on Friday before hosting them at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Tamika Catchings averaged 22.7 points during Indiana's three-game winning streak, which followed a seven-game losing steak.
Tamika Catchings averaged 22.7 points during Indiana's three-game winning streak, which followed a seven-game losing steak.
Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Mystics are in a pretty good position right now. They are a half a game above .500 and in third place in the East through 15 games of 2013. But there is still a lot of season left to go and the Mystics are only two games ahead of the Liberty and Fever and three games ahead of the Sun.

With that in mind, Washington's next two games against the Fever on Friday and Sunday could be very important in setting the tone for the second half because they will help decide if the Mystics are going to be the chasers or the chased after the All-Star Game.

When the Mystics and the Fever met in June, Washington won a very low-scoring contest at the Verizon Center. Indiana visited the White House during that trip to D.C., but they weren't playing like champs during that stretch of the season. That loss to the Mystics was part of their seven-game losing streak, which would make their record 1-7.

Meanwhile, that June 16th win for the Mystics marks their highest point so far this season. It meant they had defeated the 2012 Finals participants in back-to-back games and gave them their highest winning percentage so far in 2013 (.800), excluding their 1.000 winning percentage after one game.

The Fever have since had a three-game winning streak that improved their record to 4-7 and both teams have now won four of their last five. The Mystics now have two blowout wins under their belt, but expect their next two games against the Fever to be close. Indiana has proven that they haven't completely fallen off the map and both teams shot under 40 percent and scored under 65 when they met in June. Someone may have to win ugly again and Crystal Langhorne may have been right when she said on Tuesday that the Mystics will have to "defend and rebound."

Langhorne was the key to the Mystics' win in their earlier game against the Fever. She did not take a single shot in the first half but scored 16 in the second on 5-5 shooting from the field and a 6-6 effort from the line. Mike Thibault jokingly said he "introduced" the rest of the Mystics to Crystal at halftime.

Langhorne has led Washington in scoring in all four of the games they've played in the month of July, though all of her point totals in those games were below 20 and three were below 15. The last time Ivory Latta led the team in scoring was the final day of June when she had 15 against Tulsa.

Meanwhile, Tamika Catchings got hot for the Fever during their three-game winning streak, but has scored a total of just 19 points in her last two games. Shavonte Zellous has cooled off since scoring 15-plus in seven of her first eight games this year, a stretch that included a 29-point performance. She has not scored 15-plus since June 25 at Atlanta.

It will be interesting to see who will do the scoring Friday night after both teams struggled to score the last time they faced each other. And it will be interesting to see if the Mystics can continue to beat teams below .500, even when their opponent is a team with as much pride as the defending champion Indiana Fever.