Mystics Guard Natasha Cloud finished with 14 points, 8 assist and 4 rebounds in a big win over reigning WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx
The Washington Mystics made franchise history earlier with a 90-78 win over the reigning champion Minnesota Lynx, that victory meant the Mystics would start the season 4-0. The first time in franchise history in which they got off to a start that good, it didn't come easy though. Fresh off the WNBA's first 20 point-20 rebound effort, Sylvia Fowles was looking to continue where she left off. She scored 13 of her 17 points in the first period, playing a role in Washington falling down by as many as 18 in the first half. The one constant it's seemed through four games is that Washington has one of the league's best second units. That group exploded for 58 points as Washington rallied for the win, Kristi Toliver scored 11 of her 19 points in the second half. Second round pick Myisha Hines-Allen recorded her first career double-double to lead that explosive second unit with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Lynx came out strong, executing like the well operated machine they are by getting out to a quick 8-2 lead. Fowles was sprinting the floor in transition and getting to her spots early in the half-court, allowing her to get quality touches and good looks. The tone was set defensively by the reigning champs as well, their ball pressure had Washington on their heels early on. The home team really struggled to get quality looks, shooting just 25% from the floor and turning the ball over four times.
Trailing by 15 to start the second quarter, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was the spark that got Washington started. She started a 10-0 Mystics run, scoring the first seven of those points. Rookie guard Ariel Atkins capped the run off with a three pointer that led to a Lynx timeout. Natasha Cloud brought the crowd into a bigger frenzy a few minutes later, she knocked down a tough layup, but missed the ensuing free throw. She would make up for it a possession later by nailing a 25 foot triple to even things up at 32. Everyone in the building could feel the tide turning and the Mystics didn't let it go. Washington forced six Minnesota turnovers and they became the aggressors from that point on. Atkins scored 11 points in the period, knocking down three triples. Hines-Allen and Walker-Kimbrough had seven and nine respectively, the Mystics dominated the play that quarter to the tune of 35-13. That second quarter explosion helped Washington take a 46-39 lead.
Fowles led all scorers with 13 points at the break, Maya Moore had just six points. Atkins led Washington with 11 points, the Mystics had brought their shooting total from the floor from 25% to 48.6%. They also knocked down six of their seven first half three pointers in the second quarter. Elena Delle Donne left the game in the first period and didn't return due to a stomach bug, Fowles came down awkwardly during a collision with Hines-Allen early in the second quarter, resulting in her playing just five minutes in the period. She didn't re-enter the game prior to the halftime break.
As expected, the reigning champs were going to make a run. After a six point half, with her team trailing, Maya Moore got going. She started the second half looking to score. Rebekkah Brunson played a role in Minnesota's run to start the half as well, the Lynx took a 58-56 lead on a three pointer from Tanisha Wright. A few possessions later, Moore broke a 64 tie with her tenth point of the period (three pointer). The Mystics didn't fold as Hines-Allen knocked down a 19 footer to bring Washington within one. It was champion type response by the Lnyx, they outscored Washington 29-20 in the period to take a 68-66 lead into the fourth quarter.
The teams exchanged baskets to start the final period, with neither being able to carve out a lead. Back-to-back three pointers to give Washington a 74-73 lead. From there the Mystics went on another run to take control of the game.
Myisha scored on consecutive offensive possessions, both of which resulting in layups. Cloud took advantage of the spacing, with her teammates knocking down threes, when she turned the corner no one was home to help. She had the speed advantage over Whalen and took full advantage. Atkins followed that Cloud layup with another three pointer and the Mystics found themselves up 10 with 2:15 left on the game clock. Even though there were two minutes and change left on the game clock, that triple from Atkins felt like the dagger.
Moore would respond with a nice baseline jumper, but Cloud again took advantage of that match-up and scored another uncontested layup. After a Toliver layup, Cloud made sure it was over by drilling a three pointer off the bounce with 13 seconds left. Washington led by 15 at that point, a late basket and free throw made it 90-78.
It was a great performance from Washington, to go down 18 and respond in that manner. They'll need to lean on that experience from this win as they embark on this three game road trip. Coach Mike Thibault was honest when asked about making any possible lineup changes, saying that it's at least something to be looked at. It's a good problem to have for Washington, they may also get the services of LaToya Sanders at some point on this road trip if things are cleared with the doctors. The Mystics haven't played their best, but their ability to withstand other teams runs and keep fighting is a good sign as this season progresses.
Washington heads out west to take on the Storm, Mercury, and Aces. They'll return home to the East Coast to host the Sun and Lynx. All of this happens in a ten day stretch, the three games happen in a four game stretch.