The Washington Mystics were able to split their most recent back-to-back, they beat Connecticut on the road on Thursday but stumbled at home against the Indiana Fever last night 64-61. Washington’s road record is 2-0, but they are just 2-3 at home. The Fever ended the Mystics three game win streak while also extending their own win streak to four games. With the Sky losing their last game, Washington and Indiana are both 4-3, good enough for second and third respectively.
The Mystics didn’t go down quietly, Coach Thibault made an interesting decision late in the game. With the Fever’s offense getting into a rhythm and executing at a high level, Thibault rolled out a lineup that paired Kia Vaugh and Stefanie Dolson. The Vaughn-Dolson front court really stymied the Fever down the stretch, they owned the glass and got shooters open with great screens. The Mystics just couldn’t hit shots, the Fever held them to just 29% shooting from the field and an abysmal 13.3% from beyond the arc. Even with that horrific offensive performance, the Mystics had a chance to at least force overtime, if not win it. Rookie Bria Hartley came alive down the stretch, making play after play for her team. With the Mystics down four, Hartley attacked Maggie Lucas off the bounce. She got Lucas off balance with a quick crossover, when Lucas tried to recover, Bria went behind the back causing Lucas to fall. It wouldn’t be worth describing this play if Hartley didn’t finish it off with a basket. Not only did she hit the layup, but she was fouled and converted the And-1 opportunity. The Fever were then fouled, Coleman buried both attempts from the line. The score was 64-61 and Washington was out of timeouts, Hartley came up court and looked for a good screen. Dolson set one, but Indiana’s Natasha Howard switched with the guard Stefanie screened and got out to block Hartley’s shot. Dolson coralled the loose ball, but made the wrong read as time expired. She passed the ball to Vaughn instead of to Lawson who was parked at the three point line. It was definitely a winnable game, but it came down to poor execution on the offensive end.
The Mystics got off to a fast start, even leading 23-7 at one point. There was a wrinkle to the starting lineup, Hartley got the start along side Latta in the backcourt. Indiana started very slow offensively, some of it due to the Washington defense and part of it due to playing without their leading scorer Briann January. Kia Vaughn was very effective early on, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The defensive effort and rebounding fueled the early Mystic surge.
One of the staples for Washington during their three game win streak was their ability to beat their opponents on the glass. This was the first time this season where winning the battle on the glass didn’t result in a win. The reason was the Indiana defense, when the Fever settled in on that side of the floor, the game started to change. Indiana forced the Mystics into 17 turnovers while only committing 11 for the game, that made up for the deficit on the glass. After finishing the first half strong, the Mystics were put on their heels in third quarter. At on time, their backs were definitely against the ropes. The Washington front line had held Erlana Larkins scoreless in the first half, getting her in early foul trouble. That wasn’t the case in the second half, Larkins came alive and helped Indiana to 24-9 third quarter. The Fever were able to pressure the ball, resulting in the Mystics initiating their offense further and further away from the basket. Which only helped Indiana get in the passing lanes and out in transition.
The Fever took a 10 point lead on a three pointer from Maggie Lucas, the Mystics kept them from blowing open the game with an improved defensive effort. Unfortunately, all the stops didn’t lead to points. Indiana got back in transition and forced Washington to run their half court sets, none of which were effective. Marissa Coleman has had to step up in both January and Catching’s absence on the offensive end, she answered the call last night. Coleman finished with 20 points and five rebounds, Larkins finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and three assists. Washington was down just six at the end of the third quarter, but they turned the ball over to end the quarter.
Washington doesn’t have a lot of time to fix the offensive issues, they travel to New York to face the Liberty tomorrow before returning home Tuesday to host the Phoenix Mercury. They might want to revisit the lineup that finished the game against the Sparks, that was the most balanced line up defensively and offensively. It’s still very early in the season, the Mystics are 4-3 and are in second place in the conference. They already fixed their defensive and rebounding issues, now to find a solution on the offensive end.
Is it the lineup combinations or just poor execution, what do you think the reason for the Mystics offensive struggles are?? Leave your comments and thoughts below!!