The Washington Mystics had a chance to move to 2-1 while also winning their first game at home, the Seattle Storm refused to cooperate. Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne refused to let their team lose it’s fourth straight game to open the season. Bird struggled from the floor, but was very accurate from beyond the arc. Her biggest shot came with 1:30 left in the game; Bird (16 points) used a screen and realized the help defender was late to show, she then raised up and buried the three point dagger into the Mystics to put her Storm’s lead from four to seven. From there, it was the late game free throw formalities. Seattle got their first win of the year (1-3) and the Mystics fell one game below .500 (1-2).
While getting off to a strong start had been an issue for Washington, they got it right early on against the Storm. While Bria Hartley started for the injured Ivory Latta (chest contusion) Friday night in Indiana, Ivory was back in the saddle for this contest. The Mystics got off to a 6-0 start before going cold, the Storm were able to get into the passing lanes to keep the ball away from the Washington bigs. Emma Meesseman really had it going on the offensive end early, she had 10 points in the first quarter. Washington had a 16-12 lead at the end of the quarter, but the Storm fought back to close the lead to just two at the half.
This game was very close in every quarter, the lone exception being the third quarter. Seattle took ratcheted up their defensive pressure and outscored the Mystics 29-19. The Mystics did a great job of limiting Crystal Langhorne on the offensive end, but her teammate Camille Little really stepped up to the plate. She finished the game with 15 points, Seattle needed every one of them. The Storm were able to force the Mystics into tough, contested shots late in the shot clock. Shekinna Striken only had six points for the Storm, both of the three pointers couldn’t have come at better times. Each of them pushed a four point Storm lead to seven, always in response to a Mystics run.
One of the bright spots on the offensive end for Washington came in the third quarter, Stefanie Dolson was one of the few Mystics that completed passes into the paint. She was able to find several teammates for easy baskets from the high post position, something that could change an offense that struggles with entry passes. Washington’s defense kept them in the game all night, the Storm’s biggest lead was 11 points and the lead changed hands 13 times. While their defense operated at a high level, their offense was stuck in the mud. The Mystics had several opportunities to seize control of the game early in the fourth quarter. Seattle didn’t give up the lead and Washington could never get over the hump, the closest the Mystics got was within four with 3:04 left in the game. Rushed shots, poor ball-handling led to wasted opportunities for the Mystics. Langhorne didn’t score well, but she owned the glass, finished the game with 14 rebounds. Sue Bird closed the door on the Mystics with that clutch three pointer. Washington host the New York Liberty next Friday at home in the Verizon Center.
Post Game Thoughts
It might be time for the Mystics to shuffle their lineup; they should be 2-1 right now, the loss to the Lynx was understandable but they did more to lose this game against the Storm than Seattle did to win it. With a plethora of bigs, it may be time to shuffle the pairings. Putting Dolson on the floor with Meesseman could open the floor up and Dolson would be able to set the type of strong screens needed to get shooters open. A potential pairing of Vaughn and Hawkins could work as well, putting a vet with a younger player would keep energy on the floor at all times. While it’s great that Washington has a seasoned starting five, they seldom play with a sense of urgency as all of them “have been there” before. It’s only been three games, but it’s clear that Washington has one of the more talented rosters in the entire league. Washington has just as many options on the wing, Ruffin-Pratt and Hartley should be inserted into the starting lineup. Both bring something to the table that Lawson doesn’t, they are able to routinely break their defender down off the bounce and get into the paint. Their ability to apply pressure to the defense by driving the ball can only open up space for shooters. There have been great lineups on the floor over the course of this young season, the most productive ones include a nice mix of veterans and youth. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the season, but Coach Thibault has a loaded roster with no shortage of options. The Mystics have two home games next week; Friday against the Liberty, and Sunday against the Sparks.