The Washington Mystics moved to 3-2 after a home win over the Chicago Sky last night. That was the first part of their three game homestand, an opportunity for Washington to move up the standings after a long road trip in which they went 1-2.
As for last night, their were definitely some positive steps taken by Washington. The way they ended the game wasn’t ideal or good in any facet, nor is it something they can allow to become a habit. Below are a few of my observations from last night’s 88-79 win over the Sky.
Goon Squad. This group off the bench has been a staple for Washington through the first five games of the year. Ivory Latta, Natasha Cloud, and Tianna Hawkins have come in games and immediately impacted them in several ways. Ivory is healthy again and it shows, she has that burst back that made her one of the better scoring point guards in the league. Cloud is rounding out her game a bit more or maybe it’s just being more comfortable and assertive from last season to this year. While she hasn’t had the big scoring nights her fellow Goon Squad members have had, she’s made an impact in several different ways. She’s able to play the three (small forward) in those three guard lineups because of her size, but her quickness allows her to still use her playmaking ability to find others. She also looks to have improved on the defensive end of the floor. There’s not enough that can be said about Tianna either, like Ivory, it’s about being healthy. She’s caused headaches for multiple teams because like the other two, she could start for a few teams in this league. While this team continues to gel, the fact the Goon Squad is already as consistent as it is will go a long way for them this season.
Rebounding. Washington has been emphasizing this area of the game for the last four seasons, heading into their contest on Thursday against the Sky, they were one of the better teams in the league at hitting the offensive glass. The Mystics won the rebounding edge last night against a Chicago team with a plethora of bigs, 39-32. Krystal Thomas played a huge role in that, she pulled down a game high 10 rebounds while filling in for Meesseman. Washington held an 11-3 edge on the offensive glass. Their guards have done a great job of coming down to hit the defensive glass, that was very evident in that 19-0 third quarter run that limited Chicago to just one shot attempt a possession. There’s always room for improvement, but this is a good sign for Washington. The Mystics are fourth overall in rebounding, and first in offensive rebounding.
Long Range. The Mystics have yet to have that big game from beyond the arc. Where all their shooters are going, that hasn’t stopped them from taking those looks when they present themselves. Washington attempted 28 three-pointers last night, hitting just 8 of them. They’re not going to shoot 28% from that range every game, these shots will start to fall. There’s too many good shooters on the floor, the point is that they’ve won three games without having gotten hot as a team from that range. It’s going to come, but it’s an example of how versatile they are offensively. Whether it’s a good night or not from deep, teams have to respect the shooters and that plays a big role in the spacing. Washington is leading the league in attempts and are currently second in makes per game, again scary considering they haven’t been hitting at a high clip (31.9%).
Defense. That third quarter was a great example of how good a defensive team Washington could be. While Chicago is not a top tier team, you must play who’s in front of you. Washington was awful on that end of the floor in the fourth quarter, but their ball pressure and communication in the third was beautiful to watch. Teams keep trying to single out Delle Donne and attack her on that end of the floor. The hope being to draw fouls and take her off the floor, she’s definitely improving on that end of the floor and it looks like Coach Thibault is demanding the same out of her as others on defense. Tayler Hill was outstanding on that end of the floor last night, she had a good night offensively, but she made an impact on the defensive end as well. She along with Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Natasha Cloud made life tough for Sky perimeter players that quarter. Defensively, it’s all about playing a complete 40 minutes with that third quarter type of intensity.
Ball Movement. The Washington Mystics are moving the ball extremely well, they’re averaging 18.4 assists per game. That’s good enough for second in the league, trailing only the Los Angeles Sparks (19.7). They’ve had a few sequences in every game regardless of the result of just great ball movement. Possessions on which four of the five players on the court touched the ball. The ball seems to find the most open person more times than not, in those situations when it doesn’t as mentioned above. Last night it’s still clear they’re not fully on the same page yet, to be near the top of the league in assists considering that is impressive. This is going to be one of the staples of this team, what makes them who they are and like other facets of their game, it should only improve.