The Washington Mystics are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, but it doesn’t get any easier. Tonight they’ll face the Minnesota Lynx again, only this time as visitors. From there, they’ll face the Chicago Sky twice in three days. The first Friday night on the road, then again on Sunday at home in D.C. The following Friday they’ll host the Phoenix Mercury, the reigning champs and former player Monique Currie.
In last Sunday’s game, the Mystics used championship caliber defense to stymie the super powered Lynx offense and slow down a couple of the league’s most prolific scorers in Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus. This time, the Lynx will be a bit more rested and certainly looking for revenge. In a season where the Mystics have been far from consistent, the one area they’ve had success is against Western Conference teams. They are 6-1 against the West this year, with many considering the West better than the East, that’s a feat that deserves to be recognized and maybe even applauded.
In tonight’s matchup, the Washington will be without the services of first time All-Star Emma Meesseman. She dislocated a finger against the Lynx in their last matchup in the second half and didn’t return. It’ll be interesting to see how Washington deals with her absence, they’re a deep team so there are several options. They could start Stefanie Dolson and Kia Vaughn together, give LaToya Sanders the start at power forward alongside Stef or go four-around-one with only one big on the floor with four guards. No matter the change to the starting lineup, expect first round pick Ally Malott to get a chance to play.
Washington won’t be the only one making adjustments as surely Minnesota is going to counter what the Washington defense did to them last game. They ran Maya off a ton of screens and expect that to continue, the other option would also be for her to bring the ball up the court so that she already has the ball, it doesn’t give Tierra Ruffin-Pratt the opportunity to deny the ball from Moore. It’s imperative that the Lynx get Moore and Augustus going if they are to beat the Mystics, if those two are quiet, it’s hard for the rest of the team to pick up their slack. They may also plan to get Sylvia Fowles more involved on the offensive end, she gave Washington fits a few days ago.
The Mystics need another scorer to step up in this one, Ivory Latta did a great job coming off the bench to lead the team in scoring and really put pressure on the Minnesota defense. Don’t expect the Lynx to give her as much space to operate, it killed them last time out. Whether starting or being the first off of the bench, Latta is one of the more dangerous shooters in the league. She scores in bunches, once one falls, there are usually more to follow.
The big matchup again will be that of Moore and Ruffin-Pratt, they fought tooth and nail last game and the Mystics were able to prevail. It’s a tall task to slow down Moore once, even tougher to do it twice but TRP is certainly the type of competitor to pull it off for a second time.
With Meesseman missing the game, the scoring slack will have to picked up as the lineups are going to change. The two players for Washington that can change the game in their favor are Tayler Hill and Natasha Cloud. Neither had a big game on the offensive end on Sunday, but they both played good defense. It’s imperative that both are doing what they do best if Washington wishes to get a win on the road against the best team in the Western Conference.
For Hill, that means attacking the basket and hitting that sweet looking shot of hers. When she’s going, it makes defenses have to play more honest, opening up the floor for the big and Latta. Cloud does a great job of impacting the game in ways that don’t always involve scoring, but her size and ability to get to the rim will be welcome against Minnesota. If she’s able to take her defender off the dribble and put pressure on the bigs, she’s a good passer and can find shooters. More importantly, she’s strong enough to take the contact and finish. If both Hill and Cloud can get going, Washington may have a good chance at doing the unthinkable, sweep the Minnesota Lynx.
The game is tonight at 8pm EST on WNBA’s Live Acess.