The Washington Mystics took everything they worked on in practice and executed it on the defensive end. Outside of an early slip off a pick-and-roll that led to an easy bucket for Imani Boyette, the Mystics really shored up their defense in those situations. Dolson got things going early, scoring 7 of the team’s first 9 points before leaving due to foul trouble. That start played a role in their 118-81 win over the Chicago Sky, but their ability to maintain that edge, especially on defense stood out. Tayler Hill led the way with 21 points and Leilani Mitchell was right behind her with 20 for the evening. Courtney Vandersloot led the Sky with 17, Cappie Pondexter had 16.
Chicago would lose last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Elena Delle Donne to injury midway through the first quarter, the team tweeted that it was a thumb injury and she didn’t return.
The second quarter was all about Leilani Mitchell as Washington grew their lead to as many as 20. The newest addition to Washington’s backcourt had her first big outing. Scoring 11 points off the bench on 4-of-6shooting, including three triples. The defense continued to disrupt the Sky’s rhythm, the ball pressure on the perimeter was outstanding. At least four times in the half, Chicago threw the ball out of bounds. The Mystics would take a 56-39 lead into the half, led by Hill and Mitchell. The pair combined for 25 points.
Both teams were trading baskets to start the half, but Washington’s defense remained strong. Chicago’s Cappie Pondexter reminded everyone why shes’ one of the better scorers in the league. Going off on a personal run to start the half, she would have 7 in the period. The Mystics would stay calm and stretch the lead back out near 20 with great ball movement and execution on the offensive end. Natasha Cloud did a great job manipulating the defense in the pick and roll, hitting both Dolson and Meesseman for wide open buckets. Washington was shooting near 60% to close the third period, from both the field and three point land. Meesseman took her time and let the game come to her, the third quarter was hers as she had 13 as the Mystics extended the lead to 28.
Washington pushed the lead to as many as 37 in the fourth period. Despite the extremely large lead, the Mystics continued to play hard on both ends. Their composure in the second half stood out as they’ve struggled in the first half this season. The few times they’ve had big leads going into the break, they’ve relinquished them. This wasn’t the case against the Sky, their first win against Chicago this season came at a great time.
The vibe in the Mystics locker room wasn’t that of joy and excitement over setting and tying a couple of franchise records. It seemed as if the team was already focused on the second game in this three game homestand. Their game against Seattle is going to be huge as the Storm beat the Liberty tonight, nearly the same time that Washington beat Chicago.
Ball movement. The ball was moving around the court all night for Washington, they kept making the extra pass and getting great shots. More importantly, they were knocking those open shots down. The Sky defense didn’t have answers for the ball movement, a couple Mystics players didn’t really know what defense they were in when asked after the game. Washington had 33 assists on the evening, a great sign for any team, let alone one that’s fighting for it’s life.
Defense. Washington’s defense has been in question throughout the season. Not whether they can play well or not, but the consistency. This game, they were fully engaged on that end of the floor from opening tip until the clock showed triple zeroes. They held Chicago to 38% from the field, the Sky never shot higher than 40% in any quarter. While The Sky only had nine turnovers, those deflections, contested shots, and shots late in the shot clock add up.
Sky without EDD. Obviously the Sky missed last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the week. Still, this is a team with more than capable pieces surrounding EDD. Pondexter and Vandersloot were the only one’s that could really get anything going, but some of those were tough shots as well. With Delle Donne off the floor, Pondexter was the focal point and outside of Courtney, she didn’t get enough help.
Bench production. The Mystics bench had a great night, they had 50 of Washington’s 118 points. In addition to Mitchell’s 20, Washington got 14 from Kia Vaughn, 5 from Ally Malott, and 11 from rookie Kahleah Copper. They outscored Chicago’s bench 50-30.