The Washington Mystics found themselves under attack shortly after the opening tip, Maya Moore got going early by scoring 7 of the Lynx first 9 points and 12 of their first 20. The Mystics were able to get back into the game after trailing by 13 in the first quarter, in large part to their second unit. Washington even took a lead late in the game, only to be thwarted by the duo of Moore & Seimone Augustus. The Lynx displayed their championship pedigree by executing down the stretch to win 89-77.
While Moore had no issues getting off to a hot start, the Mystics struggled to generate good shots in their half-court offense. A large part of that was the Minnesota defense, some of the blame goes to the lack of patience by Washington. The Mystics got back into the game by digging in on the defensive end of the floor, their first basket coming off of a Ivory Latta steal which set up a midrange jumper in transition by Kara Lawson. Rookie Stefanie Dolson made her WNBA debut with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
The start of the second quarter is where the Mystics started to claw back into the game, which happened to be the “second unit” line up. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt made an impact on the game immediately, prior to her coming in the game, Washington was settling for jump shots. Ruffin-Pratt started to attack the basket aggressively, putting much needed pressure on the smaller Lynx back line. Dolson got going as well, knocking down several jumpers off pick-and-pop situations. The Mystics outscored the Lynx 25-16 in the period, cutting the 13 point lead to 39-32 at the half. The Lynx offense struggled a bit with Moore on the bench with two fouls, Augustus picked up the scoring slack to keep her team ahead. Unfortunately for Washington, they lost Jelena Milovanovic to a leg injury late in the quarter. With 2:42 left in the half, the Mystics starters accounted for just 11 of the team’s 32 points. Monique Currie, Emma Meesseman & Latta got involved to close the half, helping the Mystics tie the game at 39 at one point. Moore found a cutting Augustus to push the lead to four, Currie had a chance to cut the lead to two at the buzzer, but her shot fell just short.
The Mystics started to roll in the second half, Latta hit at least 5 of her 7 triples in the half. Every time the Lynx would start to pull away, Ivory would answer with a three. The second half lineup for Washington had a nice mix of the second unit along with a couple starters, Ruffin-Pratt continued to attack. Coupled with Latta’s three point barrage, the Mystics cut the lead to five with 4:49 left in the quarter. Minnesota called timeout, the preceded to go back to what got them the lead. Getting the ball to Augustus & Moore, the duo put the Lynx on their back as only one other Minnesota player scored in double digits. The Mystics had their chances, Ruffin-Pratt missed the freethrow on a potential and-one opportunity. Dolson secured the rebound after a strong defensive possession, only to turn it over, leading to a three by Minnesota’s Janel McCarville.
Mistakes aside, Washington continued to fight their way back into the game. An inside basket by Tianna Hawkins cut the Minnesota lead to just one, Ruffin-Pratt follows it with a contested midrange jumper to put the Mystics up one. Then, that championship pedigree kicked in. Moore scored off a great back-door cut. Latta misses at the rim, Augustus connects on a pull-up jump shot. The Mystics failed to score on the next few possessions and the Lynx made them pay with precision execution on the offensive end. Ivory takes and makes another three to cut the lead to six, Seimone responds for the Lynx to put them back up by eight. The Minnesota defense forced Washington to take several contested shots late in the clock while they continued to score, the Lynx were up by 10 with a minute left and the Mystics were forced to start fouling.
Even though the Mystics had the size advantage, they got beat on the glass 44 to 31. Similar to the preseason contests, it was mostly a lack of detail, not boxing out as a team really hurt them. Washington only had one more turnover than the Lynx, it was the poor execution on the offensive end that did them in. That being said, the Mystics should only improve as the season goes on. The bench production was a great sign as the second unit provided 33 points. The bench should be a strength for this team all year long, Washington can ill afford slow starts by the starting unit. It’s only one game, but they must start games faster. A fast start with strong production off the bench would instantly make them one of the better teams in the league, it’s up to them to take care of the little things. There were far more positives than negatives to be taken away from this loss, definitely a good step in the right direction even if it didn’t come with the desired result.
Maya Moore finished the game with 34 points, 9 rebounds, and three assists on 11-21 shooting (3-7 from three). Her partner in crime, Seimone Augustus finished with 24 points, three assists, and three rebounds on 11-20 shooting. The Lynx duo combined for 58 points on the evening, leading their team to a win while missing some key veterans. Lindsay Whalen nearly had a triple-double with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Lynx next game is Sunday at home versus the Connecticut Sun.
Ivory Latta paced the Mystics with 25 points and 5 assists, going 7-9 from beyond the arc. Super-sub Tierra Ruffin-Pratt finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, knocking down 2-3 of her three point attempts. The Mystics next game is May 23 in Indiana, they beat the Fever twice in the preseason.
Stats from WNBA Enterprises LLC