The Washington Mystics are coming off of their first victory of the season, by way of an overtime victory over the Sun in Connecticut. They’re back on the road tonight to take on the Seattle Storm.
The good news for Washington through four games, there’s a lot of time left in the season to get into a rhythm and playing at the level they’re capable of. The bad news, they were given a huge opportunity to start the season right with a three-game homestand and failed to do so. Several members of the team have mentioned that gaining “chemistry” is needed and being on the road is a great way to improve in that regard.
Washington’s All-Star frontcourt of Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson have yet to reach last year’s level of production to this point on the young season. There’s still a ton of games yet, so there’s no need for panic. They just haven’t seemed to find their groove yet, although Emma has started to get it going on the offensive end in the past couple of games.
A few of the bright spots have been Tayler Hill and rookie Kahleah Copper. Hill has really started to come into her own, definitely taking the role of Washington’s lead guard while Ivory Latta has been out. Hill has only had just one bad game, well bad by her standards in terms of not reaching 20 points. She’s averaging 18 a game, more importantly she’s providing a consistent outside threat for the Mystics by knocking down 38% from beyond the arc. Kahleah’s impact isn’t fully appreciated by way of boxscore, averaging 6.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1 steal a game. Her activity is infectious on both ends of the floor, similar to Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. Their ability to get after it on defense, attack of the bounce, slash and really just compete means so much for this team.
Bria Hartley has also stepped up early on, ushered into a starting role after Natasha Cloud went down with an illness. She’s been paired with Tayler to form the starting backcourt and has been solid in that role. Naturally a scorer, Hartley has done a great job this season of picking her spots to be aggressive and look for her shot, proving to be a nice complement to Hill. She’s averaging just under 10 points a contest and has scored some timely buckets, playing a huge role in the team’s first win of the season over the Sun.
As Washington prepares to take on Seattle tonight, one of their biggest issues has been taking care of the ball. They have had a few games with 20 plus turnovers and that’s unacceptable, especially for a team that wishes to take the next step and advance in the postseason. They’ve been decent on the glass, but can still do better there as well.
In terms of Seattle, Washington’s front court and perimeter players will be tested. The Storm have both number one picks from the last two drafts on the court for them in Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. Stewie is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds while Loyd is obviously comfortable in year two, leading the team in scoring with 21.3 per contest. Even though they are 1-s, it’s a bit misleading as they started the season against murder’s row in the form of Minnesota, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Despite the excitement over their youngsters, Seattle has more than enough veteran leadership in the from of Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne. That’s an area in which the teams differ, although that could change tonight. Ivory Latta has yet to play this season, ruled out for 4-6 weeks prior to training camp due to a knee injury. While all the talk of the young Mystics taking the next step and the youngsters stepping up in Ivory’s absence, it’s clear they miss her presence and calm on the floor.
That ability to end an opposing team’s run, provide a timely basket, and further balance the floor against opposing defenses. If Ivory’s able to play tonight, in any capacity, it’ll go along way for Washington. Similar to TRP, her desire to compete is infectious and it raises the bar for every other member of the team and especially those on the floor with her. It’s not about depending on Latta early in her return, it’s just about having her on the floor. It can do wonders for a young team when their leader is back on the floor.
Below is a video that Latta posted on Instagram just a few days ago: