The Washington Mystics took second place in the east in emphatic fashion, beating the Chicago Sky 86-71 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Sky were on a three game win streak heading into town, the Mystics met the challenge head on and may have played their best game of the season on both ends of the floor. Washington hadn’t had that signature game on the offensive end this season, it happened against the visiting Sky.
The Mystics shot 50% from the floor and a staggering 52% from beyond the arc in this contest, while keeping the Sky from getting a single open look beyond the three point line. Chicago went 0 for 8 from deep, every single one of those eight attempts were fiercely contested. The Mystics also did a great job on the glass, beating the Sky 37-24. It was definitely the most complete game the Mystics have turned in on the season.
The game started in an uptempo fashion, with both teams getting up and down the floor. The Mystics jumped out to a 24-16 lead after the first quarter, Chicago struggled to get offense going but Elena Delle Donne shouldered the load with eight of their team’s 16 points in the quarter. It was clear that the Mystics had a defensive plan in place and it was effective. They forced Delle Donne and Cappie Pondexter to shoot as tough shots as possible. The matchups in that quarter were fun to watch as Elana and Emma went at it while Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had the task of slowing down Cappie.
The Mystics pushed the lead to 15 at one point, but the Sky responded with a run of their own. Both Delle Donne and Pondexter hit tough shots over the Washington defense. The highlight play of the quarter and possibly the half was made by Natasha Cloud and Armintir Herrington. A couple years ago, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James hooked up on a similar play. Wade got the ball off a rebound or steal and launched it some 90 feet down court where James caught the pass as a lob and finished with a layup. While Cloud to Herrington wasn’t quite as far, Cloud got a steal, then made her Wade-like baseball pass up court to the streaking Herrington. The ball bounced once and Armintie picked it up and completed the layup in one motion. The Mystics would carry a 43-34 lead into the intermission, responding to the Sky run early in the quarter.
Chicago struggled mightily with Washington’s inside duo of Meeseeman and Stefanie Dolson, both of which were able to score inside and outside. Their biggest contributions may have been their passing ability and screening ability. Washington’s shooters were coming off of screens with a delay of 3-4 seconds before their defender got around the screen. Dolson was really opening up lanes for shooters in the corners as well as showing off her deft passing ability, she routinely made cross court passes that resulted in wide open three point attempts. The duo combined for 39 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, in the win.
It was the first game of the year in which both Emma and Stef were both operating at a high level, they’ve almost alternated big performances in games this year with Meesseman being the more consistent. The Sky started the third quarter quickly, with a 4-0 run, but a trend continued to develop. Washington responded, Dolson made a great pass out of a double team to a side open three point shooter. She then followed it up by receiving a beautiful pocket pass from Kara Lawson and finishing a double-pump layup. A few possessions later, Dolson set a down screen for Ivory Latta, Ivory came off the screen and drilled a triple to push the lead to 20.
Chicago had too much talent and fight on their side to go away, but they were essentially playing two on 10. Delle Donne got going in the fourth, hitting tough shot after tough shot. The Sky even cut the lead to 10 at one point, using strong defense and the speed of reserve Jamierra Faulkner to get out and run in transition.
Again, Washington would respond. Tayler Hill had a huge game off the bench, she also scored timely buckets all game long. After the flurry from Faulkner and the Sky, Hill responded. She hit a tough step-back jumper that was contested, she nailed it. Her fourth triple of the game was a big one, it pushed the Mystics lead to 73-59. Hill’s 16 points were more than the Sky’s reserves scored as a unit,
The shots continued to fall for Washington’s shooters, Kara Lawson hit a big three after nearly turning the ball over when running into Meeseeman at the top of the key. She calmly collected herself and the ball before drilling the open triple. Latta followed that up a few plays later with a four point play, yes a four point play. Ivory lulled her defender to sleep with her dribble before raising up to shoot the three pointer, she got fouled on the follow through. The crowd went crazy!! She popped up and motioned for the crowd to get even louder, then she went to the charity stripe to complete the four point play.
The Sky got drew enough fouls to get into the penalty, Delle Donne knocked down all eight of her free throw attempts. Most of which came in the last two minutes of the game, but Washington responded to every mini-run the Sky could muster. Pushing the lead back to 15 before the horn sounded, Latta would finish with 16 points and five assists. Delle Donne finished the game with 26 points on 9/17 shooting. Pondexter finished with 10 points 5/13 shooting.
It was a great win for Washington, they finally looked like the team they spoke about on media day. An up tempo team that had the ability to attack opponents in waves. Wear teams down with their depth and talent, a unit with weapons that were too much for any defense to contain. Again, it’s just one game, but the scary part is this could be the new normal for this team. They are truly that talented, Thibault had a good game plan on the defensive end and they executed it perfectly. There’s still things to work on, but the rebounding effort from the guards was impressive.
The Mystics are now 6-3 while the Sky fall to 5-4, Washington’s next game is Thursday on the road against the Indiana Fever. The Sky host the New York Liberty tonight at 7pm Eastern.