The Washington Mystics had a prime opportunity to clinch a playoff berth earlier today, the Chicago Sky simply refused to cooperate. The oft inured Sky are getting close to having their full compliment of players for the first time all season. It’s a great time for everyone to get healthy, the Mystics lost to the Connecticut Sun in double overtime heading into this matchup against Chicago. An extremely slow came back to doom Washington, no matter how great their rallies, they just couldn’t get over the hump. The Sky trailed the Mystics in the standings, with today’s 72-69 win over Washington, the Sky are now tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with those same Washington Mystics. Neither team has officially clinched a playoff berth at this point, they both have two remaining games. Who wins first? Washington at Connecticut for the second time this week and Chicago will play at Indiana( Friday and Saturday respectively).
That slow start mentioned earlier….the Mystics were shooting just 11.1% from the floor at one point. The Sky started strong behind the strong play of center Sylvia Fowles. She had ten points and five rebounds in just the first period alone, she would finish the game with 21 points and 16 rebounds on 7 of 11 shooting. The return of all-world forward Elana Delle Donne didn’t hurt either, she missed a significant part of the season with flare ups of lyme disease. Elana came off the bench for Chicago in this one as she is still getting her legs back.
Washington couldn’t seem to do anything right in the first quarter in a half, that all changed in the second half of the second quarter. The Mystics locked in on defense, got consecutive stops and went on a run to cut that 11 point Sky lead. While Chicago seized control of the game early on, Washington was able to get back in the game by sheer hustle and grit. Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson (who made her first career start due to Kia Vaughn’s suspension) really got active on the offensive glass, leading to multiple possessions for Washington and they really needed them. As always, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt came off the bench and provided the Mystics with a much needed shot in the arm. “TRP” came in and was aggressive on the offensive end, while she only finished with seven points, that aggressiveness really set the tone for her team in that quarter.
Monique Currie continued her assault on opposing defenses as she scored 18 points in the game. Routinely stopping the bleeding for Washington several times and always seemed to be the player knocking down a much needed shot. Currie’s leadership allowed the Mystics to settle down and claw back into the game, one of her three pointers cut the Sky lead to just three points. That was short lived as Elana Delle Donne responded with a three of her own, that sparked a mini run by Chicago. The Mystics fought their way back into it with a furious rally to end the half, the quarter ended with TRP hitting a tough pull-up jumper to cut the Sky lead to just two points.
For a player that is trying to “find” their way back, Delle Donne had a big game when her team needed her most. Calmly extinguishing Washington runs by hitting varying shots of increased levels of difficulty over Washington defenders that had great position. Elana showed off several runners and leaners on her way to 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting in just 23 minutes of playing time. The third quarter was much like the second, Washington would make a run only for the Sky to respond. Epiphanny Price and Allie Quigley got involved on the offensive end for Chicago, helping the Sky to a seven point lead heading into the fourth.
Yet again, the Mystics started the fourth quarter in the hole. Fortunately for Washington, they’ve been in this same situation many many times throughout the course of this season. The Mystics ratcheted up their defensive intensity and started to disrupt the smooth Sky offensive sets, Ivory Latta struggled to find her shot but hit a big three early in the quarter to cut the deficit to just four. Chicago called timeout and got both Prince and Delle Donne back into the game. Latta continues to be aggressive, almost as if she could feel the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth slipping past her grasp.
Back and forth it would go until Chicago started to exploit a matchup they liked, Meesseman was guarding Delle Donne. Elana took advantage of her handle and started to attack Emma off the dribble, it lead to a couple of highly contested shots but both of which she drilled. Quigley hits a leaner while driving to the basket to push the Chicago lead to six.
After a very tough layup by Currie, Washington had cut the lead to two. Delle Donne would get the ball on the ensuing possession, she got fouled while attacking the basket. She put Chicago up by four with 43.2 seconds left on the clock. Currie attacked the basket and went to the line…but she split the pair. This may have been the most pivotal play of the game: Quigley misses a wide open J..mad scramble n the boards…ball ruled out to the Mystics…the play is now under review with 18.5 left. After review the ball goes to the Sky with 18.5 left on the clock., they have a three point lead. The Mystics would have had the ball with a lot of time on the clock, instead they have to play another defensive possession. Upon inbounding the ball, Fowles is fouled and goes to the line..she would hit both to put the Sky up by five points. After a Mystics timeout, Bria Hartley finds Emma under the basket for a quick two points, cutting the lead to just three.
Chicago called timeout, giving them the ball at half court. Washington does a great job denying the ball, with their five seconds about to run out, Chicago inbounds the ball….to Bria Hartley, who races down court and hits the layup to put the Mystics down by three. Prince is fouled after the inbound, she goes to the line and drills both foul shots. Washington ended the game on a desperation three pointer by Meesseman, Bria had a chance to take a three after bringing the ball up court. It was a tough loss for Washington, but they get two chances to clinch their second consecutive playoff berth on Friday against the Suns and Saturday against the Liberty.
- Dolson finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in her first career start
- The Mystics are a very tough team to blow out as they don’t know when to quit
- Chicago(as expected) looks different with their two All-Stars back on the floor together( Delle Donne and Fowles have missed a combined 30 games)
- Washington played defense with their hands more than their feet today, resulting in 18 trips to the charity stripe for Chicago
- EVERYONE struggled to hit a shot for Washington
- Tayler Hill still trying to get her legs and confidence back
- TRP needs more playing time, first time almost all season she and Currie were on the wing at the same time today (they are a terror on the defensive end)
- Chicago will be a very tough out in the playoffs, they are still missing Courtney Vandersloot
- Washington won’t go down quietly either, too talented a roster…mentally tough team
- Execution on both ends of the floor must be better for the Mystics, especially if they wish to advance out of the first round let alone clinch a playoff berth