Kia Vaughn and Tayler Hill spoke to the type of situation the Mystics are in, it’s “life and death” and “win or go home” for them at the moment. They played like it last night against the Chicago Sky. Washington played like the team many thought it could be, the team that was going to be able to take a step forward this season. They’ve been “that” team just a few times this season, but this is as good a time as any to play up to the level they are capable of.
The Seattle Storm also won tonight, which means Friday’s game just got that much bigger. To their credit, Washington didn’t seem to care about the franchise accolades reached in the blowout win over the Sky. Their attention has already shifted to Seattle and the problems that team presents, they have a three game series this season and have only played two of those games. Washington and Seattle has each won a game, what better way to meet for the last time this season with all of the playoff implications on the line, well not all of them, but you get the point.
The Mystics came out frustrated Chicago on the defensive end, refusing to let them get in a rhythm offensively. If Washington wishes to make it to that “Second” season, it starts on that end of the floor. Another thing that stood out in this game was the pace, the Mystics were running after makes and misses. Chicago never did get on track and they dropped an opportunity to further solidify their postseason position with a win.
Below are five things that stood out to me while watching this game:
Olympic Leilani. This performance was the Leilani Mitchell we’ve seen in international play, she’s a killer in screen/roll situations. Prior to this game, she seemed to be trying to find her place and get acclimated here in Washington. Against Chicago, she played free and looked like the headache she is to opposing teams on the international stage. She’s not Ivory Latta and she doesn’t have to be, but her ability to knock down shots is welcome production with Latta out.
Dolson. Stef’s had an up and down year, but seemed ready to go against Chicago. She scored 7 of the team’s first 9 points and despite foul trouble, continued to be aggressive on the offensive end, she finished with 16 points. She chose not to engage the taller Imani Boyette in the paint, opting to step out on the perimeter and stretch the floor. Boyette was reluctant to leave the paint and Dolson knocked down two triples on the evening. She also did a good job of hitting the glass, it didn’t show in rebound totals, but in box outs. She did a good job along with Kia and Emma of walling off Chicago on the offensive glass. Washington’s a different team when both starting bigs are going, on this night all three of them scored in double digits.
3 point shooting. Washington hit 16 of their 28 attempts from beyond the arc, Hill and Mitchell combined to go 9 of 12. It was an impressive display of shooting, but their ball movement is what led to so many uncontested shots. They hit 10 more shots from long distance than Chicago, 16 to 6. That ball movement must continue going forward, the Mystics have capable shooters.
PG play. The Mystics point guards did a great job of running screen/roll, manipulating the defense to get the shot they wanted. Natasha Cloud doesn’t make headlines for her scoring, but her playmaking should. She had 7 assists to just 1 turnover, doing most of her damage in screen roll situations. She and Leilani did a great job of stringing the defense along just enough to attract two defenders, allowing the screener to pop for an open shot. The touch on their passes were on point all night, finding Emma and Stef either rolling or stepping back beyond the arc. Everyone played a role in earning those 33 assists, but the job they did in screen/roll situations deserves credit.
Emma. Last but not least, it was a big night for the entire team with six players in double-figures. Meesseman played one of the best games of her career against Chicago and it may get overlooked. She never forced the issue, especially when the Sky were sending help on her post touches. She moved the ball and didn’t just kick it out, she made plays. Emma found Stef and Kia in a couple of hi-lo situations, as well as hitting a couple of guards in rhythm for wide open threes. She finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Just another example of her being one of the most consistent players on this team this season, if not the most. She didn’t fight the double teams and took advantage of every one-on-one situation, it was a masterful performance that shouldn’t be forgotten.