Everything was good at the half for the Washington Mystics, the game was tied at 37 and they held a decisive edge on the glass. None of that mattered when the second half started, the Phoenix Mercury went from neutral to 100 miles per hour without warning. The Mercury offense was a joy to watch, similar to the San Antonio Spurs, the ball never stuck in one place and the right pass was always made. Four of the five Phoenix starters finished the game in double figures, the won their third game on this road trip by beating the Mystics 81 to 66. The Mercury are now 6-2 on the year, while the Mystics have fallen to 4-5.
One of the stark contrasts in this game was the difference in offensive identity, the Mercury know who they are and what they do best. It is still unclear as to what the Mystics run on the offensive end, whatever it may be, they have struggled to run it all season long. They can’t keep going on like this, Washington has one of the deepest rosters in the entire league. Also one of the most talented, yet they haven’t been able to get any semblance of a rhythm going on that end of the floor. Their have been several line up changes, none have really worked to this point outside of one. That line up that did work, wasn’t a starting unit. It was the group that closed out the Sparks in triple overtime. Washington has now won the battle on the boards in four consecutive games, yet it hasn’t translated into wins.
As stated earlier, the first half wasn’t the main issue in this loss. A better start definitely could have helped, but Washington was still able to tie the game heading into the break. The slow star was due to poor offensive execution, their early season struggles of rebounding ball may have masked the real issue. When the Mystics are able to get stops, they seldom put points on the board. Last night, that bad habit caught up with them as their offensive shortcomings gave the second highest scoring team in the league multiple opportunities to score, The Mercury didn’t need any assistance, they shot 50% from the floor for the night, more impressive was the ball distribution. Phoenix assisted on 23 of the 31 made field goals in the game.
While Candace Dupree led the charge for the Mercury in the first half, Britteny Griner scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half. Much of the shots coming off great ball movement, Diana Taurasi was relatively quiet as she chose to distribute the ball in this contest. At one point, Coach Thibault took out the entire starting five. He made the change with six minutes to go in the third quarter, the Mystics were down eight at that point. Jelena Milovanovic and Monique Currie really impacted the game, “Milo” scored as soon as she stepped on the floor while Currie just continued her aggressive start. Currie’s three pointer late in the quarter cut the Mercury lead to six, on the next possession Meeseeman got an uncontested layup which cut the deficit to just two. With just seconds left on the clock and in the quarter, Erin Phillips drove the length of the court and finished with a high-arching layup to push the lead back to six.
Washington’s defense kept them alive, but they couldn’t turn stops into points. Eventually it caught up with them and the Mercury hit another gear, the once quiet Taurasi switched her distributor role for scoring. The ball stopped moving offensively for Washington, for a team that already struggles with offense, it was a clear sign that this game would belong to the Mercury. Dupree, Griner, and Taurasi continued their assault on the Mystics defense to close the door on Washington. The Mystics certainly didn’t help their cause with countless mental errors and unforced errors on that end of the floor. Emma Meesseman finished the contest with a Mystic high 14 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter. Taurasi recorded her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 assists. Washington has two more home games this week, Friday they face the Chicago Sky and the Atlanta Dream come to town on Sunday. The Mystics have to find a way to play better at home, they are now 2-4 at the Verizon Center.
Getting the Mystics back on track
- Find an offensive identity
- Find a starting five, a consistent starting five
- Execute the offense, shore up the mental errors and unforced turnovers
- Continue to rebound