Preseason. That’s the best way to sum this one up, neither team looked particularly sharp from the opening whistle. That was to be expected coming in, each team’s biggest star sat this one out as well. There was no Elena Delle Donne or Maya Moore on the floor for their respective teams. While the preseason may not have been shorter in the actual number of days, it definitely is missing a few games. There were typically three to five preseason games in the past, this year the league cut it to two. Per source, it’s believed the reasoning for the early start to the year was to limit the number of back-to-backs in regular season play.
In a game that was primarily used to get some kinks out and work on some things, there were positives and negatives from both teams. It was another learning experience for Washington’s youngsters as the rookies got a chance to play, through mistakes and all. There’s not much to take from it as the Mystics are missing three key pieces to their team as Delle Donne didn’t play and Kristi Tolliver and Emma Meesseman are still overseas. The floor was unbalanced for most of the game, a bright spot was the return of a healthy Tianna Hawkins. She had a monster first quarter before sitting down, her ability to rebound and hit the open three will pay dividends for them going forward. Minnesota was only missing Maya, but even Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus seemed to give way to the youngsters on their team as well.
Things get going for real come this weekend, Washington hosts San Antonio in their regular season home opener at 3pm Eastern on Sunday afternoon.
Length. It stands out on paper and even more so last night. The Washington Mystics have a team with a ton of length, especially on the wings. Tayler Hill, Natasha Cloud and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt started the game on the perimeter. Their length was apparent at different moments of the game on the defensive end, getting their hands in passing lanes, when contesting shots and on the glass. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Jennie Simms have great length as well, Shatori was able to hit the defensive boards and deflect a few passes while Simms size allowed her not to be bullied by Augustus during a couple of their bouts on the wing.
Screen Setting. It was just poor. The only two Mystics players that set solid screens last night were Tianna Hawkins and rookie Caira Washington. Definitely something to keep an eye out for come Sunday, poor screen setting will definitely affect the spacing.
Spacing. It was hard to gauge the type of spacing the Mystics will have on the offensive end with a few of their pieces missing in action. Delle Donne, Emma and Kristi weren’t on the floor. Still, you could kind of envision how much better the spacing would have been with those three on the court, the guards would have that much more space and the driving lanes would be huge as attention would be demanded by Delle Donne and Meesseman. So I’m definitely looking forward to Sunday to see what things look like with Elena on the floor, it’ll be a while before Washington has everyone at their disposal.
Hawkins. The former Terrapin was in top form in Washington’s final preseason contest, she had 10 points and 7 rebounds by the end of the first quarter. Her ability to stretch the floor and hit the glass just gives Washington yet another big that has to be accounted for. She’s also a very good screen setter, creating space for the ball-handler long enough for both defenders to go with them. Giving Tianna more than enough room to “pop” for that open three point look. That play is about timing