The Washington Mystics have made the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year, unfortunately they weren’t able to secure home court through seeding. They will be the road team in the best of three series, having just one home game (this Saturday night) at the Verizon Center. They will face a very familiar opponent in the Indiana Fever, the two teams split the season series at two games a piece with each team winning on other’s home floor. The series starts tonight in Indiana on ESPN2 at 7 pm Eastern, how do these two teams stack up and what does each team have to do to advance to the next round?
Don’t let their record fool you, while the roster has undergone some changes from their title run in 2012, they still have several veteran players that have been here before. The moment won’t be too big for this team; why it may not be shared aloud, they will also be fighting to win their Hall of Fame Coach Lin Dunn one more championship in her last season.
The Fever are one of the best defensive teams in the league, finishing in the top ten in Opponent Field Goal Percentage(eighth), Opponent Points Per Game (third), and Opponent Three Point Percentage (second). While their defense was outstanding, the offense is still running behind. The Mystics will have their hands full with Tamika Catchings, Erlana Larkins, Brian January, and Shavonte Zellous. Although, the Fever will be facing a Washington defense that was ranked better than them in those same categories shared earlier. Indy will have to take care of the ball and execute in the half court on the offensive end as both teams play great defense.
Fever Keys to Victory:
- Execute offensively
- Take care of the basketball
- Win the battle on the glass, Washington is the 2nd best rebounding team in the league
- Make Ivory Latta a distributor
- Keep Washington from getting the ball into the post (Vaughn, Meeseman, Dolson)
- Get Catchings and Larkins involved early in every game
- Don’t settle for jump shots, get the ball inside
The Mystics have had an up and down season, complete with various peaks and valleys. It took some time for the roster to gel, the rotation to get set, and for everyone to embrace their roles. As far as talent goes, this is one of the more talented rosters in all of the league. While they did lose 18 games this season, not even a full handful was by double-digits. Washington struggled to close games out and also dug themselves into holes by multiple slow starts.
Washington has a top notch defense, leading the league in opponents points per game at 73.82. Similar to Indiana, Washington has it’s fair share of struggles on the offensive end. Where they differ from the Fever, they have enough weapons for this to not be a problem. Several times this season in post game remarks, players talked about Coach Thibault trying to get his team to play similar to the Spurs. In the sense that the ball must move and the extra pass should be made, it makes sense. One thing the Mystics have struggled to do consistently this season is take advantages of mismatches on the offensive end, specifically on getting the ball inside to their talented bigs.
If Washington wishes to make a run this post season, they must get contributions from both the vets and the youngsters. Ivory Latta, Monique Currie, and Kia Vaughn must set the tone for the team on both ends of the floor. All three must be assertive, the Mystics are a different team when Latta and Currie get involved early on the offensive end. A very tough team to beat, again, it comes down to the first and second year players being able to step right in and contribute.
Mystics Keys to Victory:
- Own the glass, live up to that billing of being the 2nd best rebounding team in the league
- Take care of the ball, most games in which Washington fell behind early was due to turnovers
- Shot selection, the Mystics have a tendency to take ill advised or quick shots early in the shot clock
- Execute the half court offense, get the ball inside(don’t forget about the bigs)- Kia,Emma,Stef
- Pressure the ball, (Hartley,Ruffin-Pratt, Currie) those wings do a great job of this
- Move the ball, ball movement is key against good defensive units
- Foul trouble, keep the bigs out of harms way
This should be a very good series between two tough minded defensive teams, one of them must be productive in the half court. Which ever team can be the most efficient in the half court will win this series. The battle in the paint will be pivotal as well, Indy has Catchings, Larkins, Kizer while Washington has Vaughn, Messeman, Dolson and Hawkins. It’s not just about the boards, it’s about protecting the rim as well. In the games that each team won, it came down to the production from the bigs. It will be a battle out on the perimeter as well, the Fever have fairly big guards while Washington’s are smaller and very quick. The biggest differences in terms of positions may be on the wing, as the Mystics have two outstanding defensive wings in Currie and Ruffin-Pratt. Both of which are able to attack teams off the dribble as well, so the Fever will have to keep them from attacking the basket.
From the start of the season, I’ve felt that Washington has had one of the most talented rosters in the league. While they got out to a very slow start, there’s been flashes throughout the season. As Kia Vaugh said very early in the season, “it’s not how you start, but how you finish.” Monique Currie also said once the playoffs start, “anyone can compete for the championship.”
Series Prediction: Mystics