It was a matchup between the two teams atop the standings, the Washington Mystics hosted the Minnesota Lynx last night at the Verizon Center. Elena Delle Donne was ruled out before the game with a left groin injury, that left Washington with out either member of their starting frontcourt as Emma Meesseman is still overseas playing for the Belgium National team. The visitors looked to send a message to Washington and the rest of the league last night, they beat the Mystics 98 to 73. Winning every quarter in the process, they had exceptional balance on the offensive end and were pesky on the defensive end. Tayler Hill and Ivory Latta were the only Washington players to get going offensively, scoring 20 and 15 points respectively. Without Delle Donne or Meesseman, Washington the Mystics struggled to be balanced offensively. Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen made history with her team’s win, she passed Swin Cash to become the winningest player in WNBA history (295 wins).
The Mystics didn’t take care of the ball, but did hold their own on the glass, both teams finished with 33 rebounds. Outside of Hill and Latta, the Mystics didn’t get downhill enough. When they did, they were able to get layups or make plays for others. Coming into this game, these two teams were at the top of the league in moving the ball. Washington had just 14 assists last night while Minnesota had 30 on 40 made shots. The Lynx also beat the Mystics with the long ball, knocking down 11-of-24 to Washington’s 6-of-20.
Sylvia Fowles caused a ton of trouble for the Mystics, averaging 20 and 10 on the season, she finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds last night. She was able to establish great position, forcing Washington to send help, once they did she moved the ball. That led to Rebekka Brunson getting going in the first half, she had all 17 of her points in that span. The 14 year vet has worked hard to add the three point shot to her arsenal and it’s helped give added space the their offense, she’s a 28% shooter from that range for her career. This year, she’s knocked down 44% of her shots from three.
As for Washington, this is a game to forget as soon as possible. It’s not a reflection of who they are as a team, if anything it shows how much they miss both Delle Donne and Meesseman. Also shows them how far they need to go, they play Minnesota twice more this season on the road.
Washington’s next game is Sunday at home, they host the Indiana Fever. An opportunity to get back in the winning column.
Depth. The Lynx have shored up an area in which they struggled the past couple of seasons, at times they weren’t able to give any member of their “Big 4” an extended rest. Maya Moore got two quick fouls to start the game, Natasha Howard came in and held things down. Plenette Pierson was a great addition and gives Minnesota a very deep bench and is a proven veteran. The Lynx got 27 points from their bench, but more importantly was the minutes the second unit logged. Whalen played just 18 minutes, Seimone Augustus played 20 minutes, Fowles was at 30, and Moore played 25.
Downhill. This is something Washington has the ability to do and can truly help them going forward. Ivory, Tayler and Natasha Cloud all have the ability to break down defenders and get into the teeth of a defense. Hill and Latta are very good shooters, but that ability to get in the lane really opens things up and puts an added pressure on opponents. Cloud is unique because of her size, whenever she makes up her mind to attack, she typically draws fouls and has the strength to finish through contact. Those three must continue to do that all season, those are the types of things that can help an offense when shots aren’t falling and get teams in foul trouble.
Confidence. The Mystics are going to need some of their younger players to start playing versus thinking. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Jennie Simms have the ability to really help this team. These two young ladies are scorers at heart, they’ve done a good job of fitting in and making plays for others. Still, Washington would and could benefit from them trusting their instincts a bit more and being more attack minded. Many of their turnovers come or seem to come from making an extra pass or deciding that they’re going to pass as soon as they get the ball. The same goes for Asia Taylor, I wasn’t quite sure what type of game she had. Last night in the fourth quarter it appeared that she was just playing versus thinking and showed some positive things. She’s able to handle the ball well enough to push off of a rebound, she can also put it on the floor well enough in face up situations to get to the rim. Confidence is key for all three of these players, the sooner they get comfortable and start playing freely, the better off Washington will be.
Latta. The former All-Star is back, she’s looking like her old self and has shown some new parts of her game. She showed off this pretty runner last night and used it several times below the foul line, it allows her to get a good shot without going all the way to the basket. Her burst and suddenness is back as well, she’s able to slide defenders again and get separation whenever she wants. She also displayed her leadership, even in a blowout last night by trying to instill confidence in some of the younger players on the second unit. She’s going to be a key piece to this season for Washington whether her role remains the same or changes.
One Game. That’s the mindset Washington needs to have about last night’s game. At the end of the day, it’s just one game and regardless of the point differential, it still counts as just one loss. The Mystics have a chance to rebound tomorrow against Indiana and have another home game next weekend. We’ll surely find out where they are as a team on Sunday in how they respond to this loss. Does this linger and affect their play or can they put this immediately behind them and get back on track? Washington knew there were going to be rough games while Emma was gone, last night was just one of those nights.