Mystics Insider Blog
Guest Contributor – Andrew Willett
The Washington Mystics started the week looking to build momentum after a dominating win over the Connecticut Sun. But in keeping with the Mystics’ play throughout the year – 6-6 since leaving 5-1 – the team is struggling to find a consistent base.
A tough west coast road trip saw the team lose games to the Los Angeles Sparks (7-11), 84-82, before being bumped up the standings by the Seattle Storm (11-7), 85-71. Fortunately, Washington took a step forward just in time to beat the Las Vegas Aces (13-4), 87-86.
As milestones were reached throughout the week, from the passing of Natasha Cloud to a big team win in Las Vegas, inconsistent play with or without Elena Delle Donne downed the Mystics 12-9 before heading home home to play the Atlanta Dream (8-10) on June 28.
Despite dropping to the fifth seed, Washington celebrated its fair share of movement in the franchise and the WNBA record books.
Cloud had 8+ assists in every game this week to push his 5+ streak to 23 games, the 3rd longest streak in WNBA history.
Atkins moved into a tie for fifth on Washington’s all-time steals list with 204 career steals.
EDD played back-to-back games for the first time since May 31 and June 3, averaging 19.5 points over two games to move up to sixth on the Mystics’ all-time scoring list with 1,942 points.
2 steps back, 1 step forward
Washington posted good times and stole the momentum to cut big deficits in the first two games, especially in the fourth quarter. But ultimately, early errors cost the Mystics back-to-back games plus three losses in four games before a victory over the Aces.
Washington has trailed by double digits multiple times in losses to Los Angeles and Seattle. With 5:40 left against the Sparks, the Mystics trailed by 16 points before a late push put the team within two free throws of overtime. Cloud matched his 13 assists with 13 points on 4/6 shooting and a perfect 3/3 from downtown, including a few clutch baskets on the stretch alongside Ariel Atkins’ 22 points, including eight in the fourth. But that wasn’t enough, even with a foul from Liz Cambage, as Cloud missed both free throws (one on purpose) in a two-point loss.
Two nights later, Seattle took a double-digit second-half lead five times, but Washington cut three of those deficits to five, six and two points. At 2:53 of the fourth quarter, the Mystics went 10-2 after leading 67-57 to start the quarter. It looked like Washington would show similar magic in the fourth quarter with the added boost from EDD. But the Mystics couldn’t take a lead as Seattle rained on the comeback parade returning to their big three of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird with an 11-2 run on their own. Seattle finished the game on a 16-4 flurry.
A common factor in both losses included one of the same flaws that occurred against Las Vegas: turnovers. Washington holds the fifth best turnover percentage at 17.4% on the season. But that number worsens to tied for sixth-best in the W at 19.2%, compared to tied for third-best TOV% of 16.5% wins. This gap of 2 additional turnovers (15.2 against 13.2) in losses clearly indicates a weak point in the defenses to attack Washington.
The Sparks’ biggest team forced the Mystics to commit 17 turnovers, enough to lose a game where they shot 47.8% on 3. Los Angeles got through due to their size along the front line with 6′ 9″ Cambage, 6’5″ Nneka Ogwumike and 6’3” Katie Lou Samuelson alongside defensive scorers like two-time WNBA All-Defensive Team member Brittney Sykes and 2019 champion Kristi Toliver with the Mystics. Seattle’s second-best defense in the W with a 95.6 defensive rating showed its length with Stewart, Loyd, Gabby Williams and third-year standout Ezi Magbegor to hamper Washington’s offense.
Active hands and long arms reaching the passing lanes proved troublesome for the Mystics, and while turnovers raised their heads, it was Washington’s length that kept A’ja Wilson 17 on 6/16. shots with Dearica Hamby at just five. In what looked to be the worst week of the season at this point, Washington narrowly escaped Las Vegas with a victory. But it was a great team win on the road. Alysha Clark is tied for the lead in all scorers with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals on 8/11, EDD had his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Atkins averaged of 15 points with 5 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals, and Cloud added 16 points to go with 10 assists in another impressive double-double.
This game focused on the Mystics defending against the Aces offense. the league’s top offense with an offensive rating of 107.5 and scoring 91.2 points per game. And my goodness, the 87-86 overtime game lived up to the hype between two contenders as one of the best games of the year.
With the All-Star starters announced, Washington hasn’t voted any players and is awaiting the All-Star reserve roster later in the day. Among Washington’s opponents this week, Ogwumike of Los Angeles, Bird and Stewart of Seattle and Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young of Las Vegas were all recognized as All-Star starters with Bird, Stewart and Wilson as captains. Slyvia Fowles of Minnesota got the other spot as co-captain, and Sabrina Ionescu of New York, Jonquel Jones of Connecticut and Candace Parker of Chicago got the remaining starting spots. Washington fans will know this week which of their favorite players have or have not made this year’s All-Star teams.