The last three games have been very interesting for the Washington Mystics. Two games ago they suffered their second loss of the season to the Lynx on the road in Minnesota. Instead of allowing that to spiral them into a losing streak, Washington responded with a blowout win on the road in Chicago before coming home. It could have been seen as an isolated incident, considering some of the struggles they’ve had this season with consistency. The Mystics took that opportunity to put on one of their most complete performance of the year. Washington’s defense was very good, more importantly consistent on their way to forcing 23 Storm turnovers. That led to a free flowing offense, great ball movement led to great shots. Washington beat the Seattle 100-70, Elena Delle Donne leading the way with 25 points in 25 minutes. It was far more than their prized offseason acquisition that got things done, it was a total team performance that gave fans a chance to see just how special this team might be if they can find a level of consistency.
The Mystics started the game with a 20-6 run that got them out to a big lead, Sue Bird hit a three hoping to quell the home team’s run. Washington finished the period with 29 points, they continued their roll into halftime by scoring another 27 points in the second quarter. The Mystics were on such a role that Tianna Hawkins (8 points), finished the period with a near buzzer-beater.
They really stifled the Storm’s offense and hit big shots. That’s much easier said than done, run by one of the greatest floor generals in basketball, be it mens or womens. Sue Bird has weapons at her disposal, especially the super talented duo of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. Not to mention Alysha Clark and Crystal Langhorne, it speaks volumes to Washington’s ball pressure and attention to detail on that end of the floor to hold Stewie and Loyd to a combined 15 points on 7-of-20 shooting.
Seattle tried to recover several times, cutting the deficit to eight at one point. Typically when the Mystics build big leads, there is a drop off or lull that follows. Washington avoided that pitfall that has tripped them up in past seasons and at times this year. Whether it was EDD ending a Storm run, or Tayler Hill(14 points) and Natasha Cloud attacking the basket versus settling for jumpers, Washington wasn’t going to relinquish this lead. They pushed it high as 36 at one point.
Ivory Latta had 8 points in 9 minutes, the last coming on a filthy step-back three. Literally two possessions later the veteran guard was ejected with a double-technical after arguing what appeared to be a bad call. She had the ball on the wing and blew past her defender, the help defender was there and Ivory tried to split the gap with a jump-stop. It looked like a jump ball at the very least, the best being a foul on the defense. The call however, was an offensive foul on Latta. While we don’t know what she said to the official, her teammates and nearly every person in attendance didn’t understand the reason for the double-technical that resulted in an immediate rejection.
Washington could have let the emotion get the best of them, but they continued to apply pressure on both ends of the floor.
With the result in hand, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Asia Taylor and Jennie Simms all got extended minutes. They played nearly the entire fourth period, the same went for some of Seattle’s players at the end of the rotation.
When Delle Donne arrived this season, along with Kristi Toliver, many fans and pundits alike were expecting Washington’s offense to have some Golden State Warriors type games from beyond the arc. The spacing would be exceptional with a great scorer surrounded by three point snipers and slashers, it’s happened in spurts in terms of the offense being so free flowing. This was the first time this season that Washington hit an opponent with a barrage of triples, those hurt when they’re timely and even more so when it’s in response to a run. The Mystics hit just 10 of their 24 attempts from deep, but at one point in the first half they were 7-of-12. Four different players hit two three-pointers a piece, with Toliver knocking down three.
Talking with a few of the players after the game, they accepted that this was a big step for them, but their focus was mainly on the type of defense they played. The energy and way they shared the ball, they were also asked about their propensity to give up big leads and why it didn’t happen today. Krystal Thomas when asked about the team’s identity, said “They’re getting there” and that’s something to keep in mind going forward. Thomas who missed a double-double by just two points, has provided great updates on the team’s growth on their journey. She’s played a huge role this season and sooner than later, Emma Meesseman will return and Thomas will only strengthen the “Goon Squad.”
The Mystics host the New York Liberty on Thursday, facing former Washington players Kia Vaughn and Bria Hartley.