Things haven’t gone well for the Washington Mystics since clinching a playoff spot. They snapped a three game losing streak by way of an overtime thriller last night at Capital One Arena against the Seattle Storm 110-106. It was a milestone type of night as Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was honored for scoring her one thousandth career point earlier this season, on August 20th to be exact. Elena Delle Donne eclipsed the 2,500 point plateau for her career this season as well, on July 25th. Then in the first quarter of last night’s game against the Storm, Sue Bird passed the great Ticha Penicheiro to become the WNBA’s All-Time Assist leader. Penicheiro held the mark at 2,599 and Bird passed her just three assists into her 19 points and 13 assists outing.
The Mystics had a chance to win the game in regulation, they had the ball with 28.8 seconds left in regulation. Delle Donne had hit a fall-away jumper on the previous possession, but Washington was unable to execute the play call cleanly and the Storm prevented her from touching the ball. Washington ended the possession with an off balanced shot by Kristi Toliver. Seattle had the ball with 5 seconds left in regulation, but the Mystics got the stop and forced overtime.
Washington’s pair of forwards had a big night, Elena and Emma Meesseman combined for 64 points. Meesseman scored the Mystics first basket in the extra period, nailing a three pointer to get things going. Seattle refused to go away and got contributions from nearly everyone on the floor, all five of their starters were in double-figures.
Both teams shot over 50% from the floor and 44% from beyond the arc. There were moments of strong defense, but for the most part both teams were able to get what they wanted on the offensive end of the floor.
Allison Hightower gave Washington some quality minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points with an array of spinning drives and floaters. Tianna Hawkins had 9 points, but three of them came at a crucial time in the extra period. She literally walked off the bench for an offensive possession, her ability to help stretch the floor put a bit of pressure on the Storm. With Delle Donne and Meesseman feeling it, Crystal Langhorne sagged off Tianna a bit and she took the space and opportunity to nail a big three pointer.
Ruffin-Pratt is one of the best defenders in the league, but she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar with 11 seconds left in overtime. Bird saw her reaching in and immediately went into her shooting motion. What made this foul hurt Washington even more was that Seattle was out of free throws. On the previous possession, Meesseman had went to the line and split the pair to give the Mystics a four point lead. Bird, as expected, hit all three shots from the charity stripe.
From that moment on, it was a foul shooting contest as the teams combined to shoot 13 over the remaining 11 seconds. So many times in basketball, fans and media alike question why teams don’t foul when they’re up three to prevent the other team from attempting a three pointer. The Mystics executed that line of thinking down the stretch and it paid off.
Sami Whitcomb was fouled with less than 2 seconds left in the game, she hit the first free throw before intentionally missing the second. Washington was able to secure the rebound and Delle Donne iced the game by knocking down two free throws.
Seattle would eventually clinch the final playoff spot later in the evening after losses by Chicago and Atlanta.
It was a big win for the Mystics, they needed it from a confidence standpoint and they proved that they can win a close game. There’s one more game in the regular season, but it feels like Washington is relishing the opportunity to start anew this post season. Despite the way they’ve finished the regular season, they are 0-0 come next week.
Delle Donne was in playoff mode and Meesseman and Coach Thibault stated that the contest felt like a playoff game. There are definitely some areas that Washington has to clean up before Wednesday’s playoff game, but their will to win was on display and they’ll need that and the sense of urgency they played with late to be factors every game going forward.