Washington’s Most Valuable Player candidate had one of those moments that MVPs have. Her team was growing stagnant offensively as the Liberty started the third quarter playing very good defense. Forcing a couple of shot clock violations and getting on the score board. They cut the deficit to 14, but it felt different as the building grew a bit restless. It appeared as if the Liberty with their physicality, were starting to seize control of the tempo.
Elena Delle Donne scored her team’s first nine points of the quarter, taking on the scoring load during a rocky stretch. It started with a tough 13 foot jumper, followed by a runner off the glass. After a pair of free throws she drilled a 27-foot triple that let the crowd and her teammates know that it’s okay, “I got us” in this tough stretch.
From that point on, Washington took off and their depth made sure the Liberty weren’t getting back into it en route to a 101-72 victory. Washington’s defense and depth shown through in this win, outside of that stretch where EDD took over.
Delle Donne led a very balanced effort from Washington with 22 points in 24 minutes. Tianna Hawkins scored 15 points, while Aerial Powers and Emma Meesseman scored 14 points a piece. The “bench mob” or “goon squad” as dubbed by Hawkins, accounted for 50 of the 101 points scored on the day. All season long the Mystics have relied on their depth, LaToya Sanders agreed to as such by saying she wasn’t “surprised” by the groups effort.
Kia Nurse scored 24 points in the loss for the Liberty, Tina Charles scored 16 points in 23 minutes. Former Mystics guard Bria Hartley also scored 16 points for New York. They just don’t have the fire power to go basket for basket with Washington and they struggled to generate the necessary stops to avoid those big Mystics runs.
The teams traded baskets early on as both teams were creating solid looks, but that changed midway through the quarter. Washington started to get stops and the Liberty couldn’t keep up. Meeseeman entered the game and immediately went off, she scored 10 points in just under four minutes of playing time. Powers was all over the glass and the Mystics were able to create a 17 point lead by the end of the quarter.
Once their defense locked in, the Mystics were able to disrupt New York’s offensive sets often. Not only was the ball pressure on the perimeter strong, they did a good job of boxing out as a group. The one bad part of the period was when Powers went down after a group of bodies collided on a defensive rebound with 1:28 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t much different, the Liberty did score three more points, but they still had issues generating stops. They were able to whittle the deficit down a bit by getting to the foul line. Despite not scoring as much as they did in the first period, the Mystics were once again able to get the lead back to 17 by the end of the half. The Liberty outscored the Mystics by one, but the home team’s defense allowed them to extend that lead late in the half.
The effort given by Washington defensively in the first half led to several moments in which the crowd couldn’t help but show appreciation to. One of which was Natasha Cloud chasing down Bria Hartley in transition and getting enough of the ball to generate a tie up. Powers had several moments in the first quarter where her flat out hustle gave the crowd and her team energy.
One of the biggest themes of the game for Washington was their ball movement, they continued to pass up good looks for great looks. That played a big role in the balanced scoring as no one was really forcing the issue on that end, just making the right play.
Up next, the Mystics host the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night. Every game is of the utmost importance as Thibault made it clear in the post game press conference that his team is indeed looking to lock up one of the top two seeds. Sanders did say there” isn’t pressure” felt by her and her teammates.