In advance of today’s matinee matchup with the Minnesota Lynx, the Washington Mystics took part in history yesterday afternoon at the Verizon Center. The home team and the visiting Lynx took part in the WNBA’s first ever Analytic scrimmage.
The Analytic scrimmage took place after both teams worked out a bit and went through several practice scenarios against each other, once they were finished the main event began. The first session would be ten minutes with the focus being on eliminating the least efficient shot in basketball, be it mens or womens. The midrange jump shot. Teams could only score by going into the lane, on the block or by knocking down triples.
That session was interesting because it didn’t really change much for either team as both teams appeared very comfortable omitting that middle shot. Several players on both sides were a bit hesitant as one of their sweet spots on the floor was taken away. For the Mystics, rookie Natasha Cloud passed up several open three point attempts and didn’t seem comfortable or confident in the two attempts from deep she took. That didn’t take away from her overall impact on the court as she put her full playmaking abilities on display. Creating for others in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop as well as driving and kicking to open shooters.
One of the Lynx ‘Big Three’ has a game that is heavily reliant on midrange jump shots and the ability to slash to the rim. While Linsay Whalen and Maya Moore seemed themselves during the first ten minute period, Seimone Agustus was able to get to the basket but was a bit hesitant shooting the long ball. She can hit from beyond the arc, but it’s usually after she gets in a rhythm slashing and shooting that midrange jumper of hers.
The other caveat from the first session, all the bigs on the floor were encouraged to take a couple of steps back from those long two point shots. With that out of the occasion, there were a few makes from downtown by the bigs on the court. Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meeseeman both hit one a piece.
The second 1o minute period was all about pace, seeing if altering the game would make it flow better or faster, possibly in hopes of increasing excitement. That meant that the 24 second clock would be reduced to 20 on every possession and on offensive rebounds, the clock would reset to 14 rather than the full 20. Shots from anywhere on the floor would count, the only difference being when players were fouled. In an ‘and 1’ situation, once the player made the bucket, the third point was automatically added.
The score was 19-18 in favor of the Mystics after the first session, the second session achieved it’s goal. It was a barn burner. Both teams displayed their athleticism as the pace ratcheted up from the previous period. With four seconds lost on the shot clock, neither team walked the ball up court. It was impressive that they were able to run their offensive sets with the loss of time. There were many fast breaks off rebounds as both teams were trying to get the advantage, which led to one of the areas of focus in the first session. Three point shooting.
The ball was getting swung around the court well in the half court offenses, but even better in transition. Not only were trailers being hit for three point shot attempts but two-on-one situations resulted in the second offensive player flaring to the corner for a three versus the standard break in which the goal is the easy two. Tayler Hill stood out during that session as she was able to take advantage of the pace and ball movement and knock down several three pointers, only recall her taking one shot inside the arc in the scrimmage period.
The Lynx stellar point guard Lindsay Whalen was a joy to watch as the pace increased, always making the right decision and finding teammates for high quality shots. All in all it was a good scrimmage, both teams showing off their strengths. The Mystics were able to win when it was all over, they did so without Ivory Latta, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, or Armintie Herrington.
The winner of the day was the league, it was great to see the NBA support the WNBA as the Wizards front office was in attendance including Coach Wittman, Mr. Leonsis, Ernie Grunfeld and others. Analytics plays a huge role in the mens game, it’s only right that it makes it’s way into the womens game.