The Chicago Sky come to town to face the Washington Mystics Sunday at 4pm Eastern at the Verizon Center. Washington is coming off of their third loss of the season, second to the Atlanta Dream While Chicago is riding a three game win streak and Elena Delle Donne is off to the best start in league history even after struggling mightily in their last game. Both teams are 5-3 on the season, so they’ll essentially be battling for the right to second place.
Washington has shown that it has the ability to put points up and in a hurry, they’ve yet to have that complete game in which they’re operating well on both offense and defense. Still, they have show they have enough fire power to hang with high scoring teams.
The Sky are a well oiled machine at the moment, Delle Donne is averaging 29.4 points per game even after scoring a season low 14 points in a win over the Fever. That may have been the most impressive game of the season for them as a team because she didn’t have a good game and her teammates stepped up well in response. Just two games ago, she scored 45 points against the Atlanta Dream which was the second time this season that she’s scored 40 points.
It’s more than just her on the team, despite what Sportscenter may tell you. In addition to Courtney Vandersloot, the Sky added another known scorer in Cappie Pondexter. That duo would give opposing teams trouble even if they weren’t with Delle Donne, that’s what makes defending the Sky so tough. They have one of the five best players in the entire league on their roster, along with two very very good players in Pondexter and Vandersloot that can’t be left alone. As a team, the Sky are leading the league in points per game with 87.8. The Mystics started the season at 68.4 through the first four games, before turning up and scoring 80 several times to raise that number to 74.
Washington is a bit different, they don’t have that clear cut star on their roster. Although, Emma Meesseman is on her way to becoming one. They’re impressive because of the collection of talent, there is literally an option for every scenario on that roster at Coach Thibault’s disposal. It’s really a team contribution on offense as they do a very good job of sharing the ball, evident by their league leading 18 assists per game as a team.
They’ll have their hands full on the defensive end, but the Mystics have done well against some of the top tier players in the league to this point. The lone exception being Angel McCoughtry. The Mystic have been able to count on their defense much more than their offense so far, in the loss to Atlanta on Friday night, Washington used their defense to keep them in it during a five minute stretch in which they didn’t score.
One of the pleasant surprises for Washington this season has been the play of Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. They have a host of scorers on that roster, she’s easily overlooked regarding her ability to contribute on that end of the floor. This will also be the third game this season for Bria Hartley, the more she plays, she’ll soon find her rhythm. Her ability to break down her defender, gives Washington another player on the perimeter other than Latta that can do so. A healthy Hartley also makes it easier for Latta to get shots by playing off the ball at times.
If Washington wishes to rebound from the loss in Atlanta, it’s imperative that they play their style of basketball and stay out of foul trouble. Here’s the keys to a Washington victory:
- Meesseman. Get her going early, the more touches she has, the better the offense runs
- Screens. Set good screens to free up the shooters (Latta, Hill, Lawson, Hartley) as the Sky have some good size on the perimiter and in general
- Take care of the ball. The Mystics biggest flaw this season has been their propensity to turn the ball over, when they don’t turn it over they are a very efficient offensive team
- Run, run, run. As always, take advantage of their depth, run the opposing team into the ground
- Rebound. For a team with good size, Washington doesn’t rebound nearly as well as they should. They average just 33 boards a game, they are fully capable of grabbing close to 40 per contest. When the Mystics do end defensive possessions with a rebound, they have the advantage at pushing the ball up the floor before the defense can set up