The Washington Mystics have arrived back in Washington D.C. after a seven day, three-game road trip. Their record is now 2-2 overall after going 1-2 on the road trip. Kristi Toliver went back to LA for the first time as the Mystics took on the Sparks on their ring night, Washington would lose that game by 10, 99-89. A slow start doomed the Mystics in that one as the Sparks outscored them 34-22 in the opening quarter. That initial burst was too much to make up for Washington. Their next game was against the Seattle Storm, it wasn’t the start that cost them that game. The Storm used a big third quarter to create separation and they held on from there to win 81-71.
The Mystics finished their road trip in Chicago, playing the first of their home-and-home this week. Washington hosts the Sky tomorrow night as the first game in their three game homestand.
Back to the game in Chicago where Washington got their first road win of the season. The Sky definitely have a different feel to them with Delle Donne now on the Mystics. Cappie Poindexter (17 poitns, 10 assists) is taking on more of a facilitator type role in addition to her ability to score in bunches. There’s also no limit to the size in Chicago, from Dolson, Boyette, Parker and that’s not even counting the #2 overall pick Alaina Coates. Ally Quigley got off to a great start for the Sky, scoring 13 points in the first half, but Washington held a two point lead.
It wasn’t a pretty game for either side, especially on the offensive end. The Mystics still haven’t had that first game where the three-ball is really falling yet. The Sky did a good job defending the many ball screens in Washington’s offense, still the Mystics were able to find space on that end of the floor. With all the attention being paid to Delle Donne, Meesseman, Hill, and Toliver someone had to step up in that starting group.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt took advantage of Chicago’s Tamera Young playing help defense by cutting to the basket whenever Young left to go help a teammate. TRP had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in the contest and was the Mystics leading scorer midway through the third quarter. Both teams continued to trade baskets in the third, but the Mystics led by five heading into the fourth.
Those three’s that weren’t falling in the first three quarters for Washington, started to fall in the fourth. Delle Donne started the quarter off by scoring off a couple of high post touches. That made the Sky send a second defender and Ivory Latta and Natasha Cloud took advantage of it. Latta exploited Quigley off a high ball screen, Ally played it to deny the pass (ice it), but didn’t have help behind her and Ivory sped to the rim for an easy layup. The veteran guard for Washington would hit a three pointer a couple possessions later. Cloud hit a three in transition off a pass from Kristi Toliver to force a Sky timeout and take a 70-59 lead midway through the fourth.
Coach Thibault had an interesting lineup on the floor during that run. He went with three point guards in Latta, Toliver, and Cloud which meant at least three players could initiate ball screens. Not only that, but two of those three guards are knock-down shooters from deep, Cloud’s working on making that part of her game consistent. Her size allows her to guard bigger players in that lineup and help on the glass. Tianna Hawkins (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Elena (21 points, 8 rebounds) were the “bigs” in the lineup which meant the defense had to account for five three point shooters.
Washington’s depth played a big role in the win and it’s clear the team is continuing to get to know each other. They will be without the services of Emma Meeseeman for the next month or so due to her being with the Belgium National Team. So it’ll be interesting to see how Coach Thibault chooses to adjust the lineup during her absence. The Mystics have a good opportunity ahead of them starting tomorrow night, if they can sweep the home stand, they’d be 5-2.