Washington Mystics vs New York Liberty Preview
Mystics 12-18 vs Liberty 11-20
When: Friday, Sept 17th, at 7p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: Twitter / Radio: N/A
Mystics: Elena Delle Donne (Out, Back),
Liberty: Jocelyn Willoughby (Out for the season, Achilles), Reshanda Gray ( Questionable, Illness)
79.9 - points per game
83.4- points against
40.9 - Field Goal %
78.1 - points per game
85.7- points against
42.5 - Field Goal %
Keep an eye on:
The Backcourts: is where all eyes should be during this contest. Both teams regardless of the standout production from their respective front courts, goes where their guard play takes them. Washington will get a big boost from the return of Ariel Atkins who's missed the previous two games for personal reasons. Prior to her taking a leave of absence, Atkins had regained her rhythm shooting the ball she consistently displayed during the first half of the season. She broke out of her post Olympics slump with 16 points on 6-8 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from deep against Connecticut, posted a team high 25 points on 9-21 from the field and 3-4 shooting from 3-point range against the Lynx and she was one of the few bright spots in a ugly loss to Seattle, being one of three to finish in double figures with 13 points. I would expect a rejuvenated and motivated Atkins tonight and for the remainder of the season.
Natasha Cloud, who is second in the WNBA in assists, dishing out 6.5 per game, has been on a terror since the Mystics blowout loss to Seattle. She's literally doing it all while being the consummate leader for Washington. Since the loss to Seattle, Cloud is averaging 14.5 points, 7 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 2 steals on 55 percent shooting from the field, 37 percent shooting from deep and 100 percent shooting from the charity stripe. All wins. To say she's been getting it done is an understatement.
Washington's backcourt needs to maintain their level of play to control the game and be in a great spot to be victorious due to the formidable backcourt of New York in Betnijah Laney and second year point guard Sabrina Ionescu. Laney, New York's leading scorer, is in the conversation for the top shooting guard in the WNBA. An all around threat, Laney is averaging 17 points, 5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game while being a pest defensively. Her match-up with Atkins is must see TV.
Ionescu, is a triple double threat, while she's struggled shooting the ball this season (37% FG, 32% 3FG), she's maintained her all around impact, averaging 11.4 points, 6 assists (4th in the WNBA), and 5.7 rebounds a game. It's never going to be an easy night when facing the Liberty as long as these two are side by side in the backcourt. As I said earlier, the backcourt that controls the game the best will all but assure a win for their respective team. Stay tuned.
Tina Charles vs Natasha Howard: I mean do I really need to say more? We're talking about two of the premier bigs in the WNBA, of course a focus on them is warranted. Charles is leading the WNBA in scoring at 24.3 points per game, she's third in the WNBA in rebounding, snatching down 9.6 boards a game while shooting a career high from 3-point range (36.8%) and from the free throw line (81.9%). Charles was clearly in the MVP mix until injuries forced her to miss six games after the Olympic break.
Howard has missed all but the last 12 games this season due to an MCL sprain that sidelined her for 6 weeks, yet, she's starting to regain her All WNBA form. In New York's loss to league leading Connecticut in their last game, Howard went toe to toe with soon to be league MVP Jonquel Jones, finishing with a game high 25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals on 10-18 shooting from the field. The only knock from her performance was her 9 turnovers which is of course extreme BUT uncharacteristic for Howard who for her career only turns it over a little under twice a game.
It'll be a heavyweight battle inside and out between these two all game long.
3-pt Shooting: is a BIG deal in this game. For all of New York's struggles scoring the ball efficiently from the field, that don't apply to their 3-point shooting. The Liberty ranks third in the WNBA in 3-point shooting, hitting 36 percent from deep and they're also first in 3-point makes with 10 per game and first in attempts, letting nearly 28 3-pointers fly per game. Six Liberty players shoot between 34 and 47 percent from deep.
Washington on the other hand struggles greatly not only with shooting 3-pointers, but, defending the three as well. Washington shoots nearly 33 percent from deep, which is good enough for tenth best in the WNBA and they rank tenth in defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot 37 percent from deep. In both games against the Liberty, Washington allowed New York to shoot 40 percent from 3-point range, going 1-1. Washington has no choice but to step it up defensively tonight or it can end up being a long night against a desperate team with their playoff lives on the line.