Mystics point guard Kristi Toliver clutch shooting helped Washington edge the Mercury late
The Mystics entered yesterday’s game with a one game lead over Phoenix for the fourth spot in the WNBA standings. The fourth spot guarantees a postseason bye so both teams were highly motivated coming into this game. Washington received consistent play from Kristi Toliver (20 points), Krystal Thomas (16 rebounds), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (17 points) and Emma Meesseman (15 points). In addition to playing team basketball on the offensive end, the Mystics also played consistent team defense on Diana Taurasi the entire game.
Tierra Ruffin Pratt was a lady on a mission during this quarter. She went on to score the first two baskets of the game for the Mystics and the team seemed to feed off of her energy for the rest of this game. Though both teams began the game by going back and forth, the Mystics consistent play never wavered as they continued to take advantage of their size and strength over the Phoenix Mercury. Krystal Thomas dominated the paint by demanding her space in the low post. By her doing so that helped the Mystics play the game from the post on out. Great things happen when you feed your bigs because that forces the opponent’s defense to shift into the wrong spots and the Mystics definitely took advantage of that. That inside out game also forced the Mercury into the penalty situation with 5:00 left in the first quarter. Krystal Thomas and Ruffin-Pratt were the players of the half for the Mystics. On offense the Mystics showed great patience and great ball movement by utilizing their bigs and taking advantage of mismatches with Ruffin-Pratt. Meesseman receives the honorable mention award with six points in the the quarter. Washington led 23-20 after the first period.
The second quarter began with a three point shot from the top of the key by Ivory Latta. The Mystics continued their strong play as Tiana Hawkins hit a strong three pointer that helped push the Mystics lead up 31-24. Shortly after that three pointer the Mercury went on their own run as they went on a 8-2 run that consisted of tough midrange jump shots which shrunk the Mystics lead to 33-32. Basketball is a game of runs and the Mystics proved that point on multiple occasions during this game. Enter Kristi Toliver. She hit a nice three-point shot that pushed the Mystics lead to 36-32. Krystal Thomas was a lady on a mission as she reached 10 rebounds with 2:15 seconds left in the second quarter. Much like the 1st quarter Krystal Thomas was the unsung hero. Thomas demanded her space in the post while also being a monster on the offensive boards end as well. That allowed Washington to hold a 43-38 lead into the half.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt began this quarter with two quick baskets that helped push the Mystics lead to 49-40. As soon as it seemed like the Mystics would run away with this game the Mercury went on a run of their own as they tied the score up after going on a quick 9-0 run of their own. The Mystics then went on a 6-0 until the great Diana Taurasi decided that enough was enough. Taurasi hit a three point shot while smiling and it seemed as if the Mystics had awoken the beast but the Mystics had other plans. After losing the lead after sending Danielle Robinson to the free throw line Tiana Hawkins and Emma Meesseman hit back to back baskets to give the Mystics a 61-59 lead over the Mercury. Toliver, Hawkins and Meesseman were the players of the quarter for the Mystics, the Mercury made a run, but Washington retained the lead heading into the fourth.
Tiana Hawkins got things started in the fourth quarter with a three pointer that gave Washington a 64-59 lead. Meesseman hit a nice three pointer to give the Mystics a 67-61 lead but Phoenix gained the lead back after their rookie Yvonne Turner hit back-to-back three pointers from the same spot on the floor. Kristi “Midrange queen” did what she does best and hit a tough mid range jump shot to give her team the lead back. Soon after Tierra Ruffin-Pratt hit a tough and-1 that extended the lead to 74-70. The teams started to trade baskets, but eventually Washington started to get stops.. Phoenix cut the lead down to one after they hit a clutch three point shot. As stated earlier basketball is a game of runs and the Mystics once again proved that as Ruffin-Pratt drew a charge. With a one point lead Toliver hit a clutch step back jumper in on the left wing that pushed the Mystics lead to 83-80 with about 12 seconds to go. Taurasi then missed her three point attempt on the ensuing possession.
Washington held on to get the 85-80 win, rebounding from a disappointing loss in San Antonio a few days earlier. More importantly, Washington extended their lead on the Mercury in the hopes of securing their current place in the league standings and playoff race.
Without Griner on the court to help out Taurasi, Diana tried to force the issue all by herself which led to a sloppy game for the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. She finished the game with 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting. The Mystics played a consistent game on the offensive and defensive side of the ball and that lead to them gaining the win over the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury will be back at the Verizon Center in about two weeks. This will be a pivotal match up because Brittney Griner should be back for the Mercury and they’re a different team when she’s on the court.
Player(s) of the game: Kristi Toliver, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Krystal Thomas.