A poor start led to a huge hole for Washington, they wiped out a 20 point lead with a big third quarter push. Midway through the fourth, the Mystics had tied the game at 76. That’s when the championship pedigree of the Sparks was on full display, they promptly went on a quick 7-0 run. Washington couldn’t get the stops needed or the subsequent baskets on the offensive end. Alana Beard scored all 10 of her points in the final period as the Sparks moved to 7-2 with the 97-86 win over Washington last night. Candace Parker had 23 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Elena Delle Donne led Washington with 18 points and seven rebounds, LaToya Sanders had a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles was on fire on the offensive end, shooting a blistering 65% from the floor and 75% from three in the first half. They finished the game with all five scorers having scored in double figures. Their defense in terms of running Washington of the three point line was good as well. They kept the ball out of Kristi Toliver’s hands for the most part and when she did get it, they hounded her so the ball got out of her hands.
The Mystics struggled offensively in the first half, not able to get into a flow. Some of it had to do with the Sparks ball pressure, but some could also be attributed to poor execution. Washington looked like a different team in the second half, they attacked the offensive glass and just seemed to run their sets with more conviction. The second unit deserves the credit for their second half run.
Washington pulled down 13 offensive rebounds in the game. Playing a huge role in the Mystics rally seeing as they struggled to shoot from the floor.
One of the things the Sparks did to take Washington out of their normal offensive flow is put Beard on Natasha Cloud. Natasha has stepped up this season as Washington’s better playmakers, by disrupting her it forced Washington’s offense off schedule as well. The Sparks have the bigs to not have to double Elena and Sanders isn’t the type of big that requires one. That allowed their guards to play up on Washington’s perimeter players and almost always have a free helper. The plan almost seemed as if the Sparks wanted Cloud and Sanders to beat them.
Sanders did score 12 points on six-of-six shooting, but Cloud struggled from the field on four-of-15 shooting. By forcing Cloud to be a scorer, it meant the ball wasn’t moving as it normally does and with limited airspace for the shooters, Washington struggled at times to generate good shots
“We were a step behind defensively the whole first half and that carried over to our offense as we were taking it out on the net too many times. They kind of had their way with us. Our defense has got to get back on solid ground before we start this next stretch of games. It wasn’t good tonight. L.A. is really good. They made some tough shots, and made some three’s early, but we helped them.” – Mystics Coach Mike Thibault
Washington has struggled on the defensive end for the past five quarters, they’ve been far from consistent. When they do play good defense, they’re at their best. Poor defense led to a 30 point lead in Connecticut being erased and it helped the Sparks get comfortable on their way to a big first half lead. The Mystics have to get better on that end of the floor sooner than later, their record is now 6-5 after starting 4-0. It’s a compressed season, so slides like this could cost them.
Washington’s next game is Tuesday night, they’ll be host to the Chicago Sky.