The Washington Mystics host the Minnesota Lynx tonight in a battle between teams at the top of the league standings. The Lynx have started the season 7-0, winning four of those games on the road. The Mystics are coming off a road win over the Dallas Wings, they’re riding a 5-game win streak and are second in the league standings at 6-2. It’ll be a huge opportunity for Washington to prove to others and themselves that they can get it done against the league’s best. Let’s take a closer look at how these teams matchup.
They rank second and third in terms of points per game in the league. The Mystics are scoring 84.5 points a game and the Lynx are at 84.4. While the Mystics have a ton of fire power, they’re still working on gelling together. Minnesota’s been together longer and they’re shooting a better percentage than Washington from the floor, 45.6% to 41.4%. While both teams are shooting in the low 30’s from beyond the arc, Washington takes and makes more three pointers per contest. Washington also does a better job at getting to the line, taking nearly 24 trips a game to Minnesota’s 22 attempts. While they get to the charity stripe at a similar rate, their accuracy is not remotely the same. The Mystics are leading the league at the line, shooting 88.8%. The Lynx are under 80%, ranking seventh at 78.3%. Both teams do a great job of moving the ball, Minnesota leads the league in assists per game with 20.1 and Washington isn’t too far behind with 18.4.
Rebounding will be a key area in this game for both teams. The Lynx are currently the best offensive rebounding team in the league, but not by much over the Mystics (11.1 to 11). In total rebounds, the Mystics hold a very slim edge at 37.6 to 36 a game.
The similarities continue on the defensive end of the floor for both teams as well. Both teams have done a good job defensively, surrendering just 40.9% and 41.5% shooting from opponents by Washington and Minnesota respectively. They struggle a bit at defending the long ball though, the Lynx generate more steals a game (8.7) and they both block 3.5 shots a game.
There’s definitely star power in this matchup as Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Kristi Toliver, Seimone Augustus, Ivory Latta, Lindsay Whalen, and Sylvia Fowles will all be on the floor. There are quite a few Hall of Famers in the list of names just shared, but this matchup goes much deeper than that. One of the things the Lynx focused on this offseason was adding quality depth, be it through the draft and free agency. The Mystics definitely had some pieces move around, but they were a young team that added a former league MVP. Their depth has proven it’s worth in every game this season and will have to play a big role tonight if they wish for their win streak to continue.
While the Lynx may have more of the “stars” in this matchup, Washington’s “others” and I don’t mean that as a slight, but only sharing what may be perception by the casual fan or those who may not follow the Mystics regularly. That being said, Washington has much more than the newly added Delle Donne, starting with Tayler Hill and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt who have been integral pieces over the past three plus seasons.
I believe this game will be decided by the depth, if the “Goon Squad” can match or outplay the Lynx second unit that will put added pressure on the Minnesota starters. The Lynx get between 15-18 points a game off their bench, leading the way is Renee Montgomery and Natasha Howard.
Washington’s “Goon Squad” consists of Ivory Latta, Natasha Cloud, and Tianna Hawkins. The trio is averaging close to 22 points a game off the bench, at times they’ve played in lineups with a couple of the starters and it gives Washington a different look as they can play without a traditional center.
A key area will surely be the battle in the post between Sylvia Fowles and Krystal Thomas. Fowles has been a dominant post player for much of her career. The Olympian is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Thomas has been filling in for Emma Meesseman who has been overseas playing for the Belgium National team. In her absence, Thomas has started four games. While she isn’t counted on for interior buckets through post ups on a regular basis, she has made a living keeping the ball alive on the offensive glass and playing good post defense. Washington will need her to hold her own in guarding Fowles and her usual contributions on the glass. She’s barely missed out on double-doubles over the last three games.
The battles on the perimeter will surely be fun in this one, Toliver -Whalen, Hill-Moore, Ruffin-Pratt and Augustus. Washington has had some success against the Lynx in the past, in a game last year they held Augustus scoreless and won by double-digits. This is definitely a new year with both teams having new pieces. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lynx deal with defending Delle Donne. Will the task fall to Rebekka Brunson or will they send a double and risk leaving some of Washington’s shooters? Or do they let EDD do what she does and try to limit the rest of the team?
It’s a great test for Washington early in the season to see where they’re at as a team, it’s also a test for Minnesota as they get a chance to keep Washington from closing that gap in the standings.
The game is at 7 pm tonight at the phone booth aka the Verizon Center.