Things haven’t changed much for the Washington Mystics, they’ve still yet to go into a game with their full complement of players or their intended starting lineup this season. Still, they are 4-2 on the year. The visiting team in tonight’s game has gone down a very similar path to start the season, only they haven’t garnered the same results as Washington.
The Los Angeles Sparks haven’t had their best player step foot on the court this season as Candace Parker is taking some time off before starting ‘her’ WNBA season. She’s coming off another season abroad, in Russia and is letting her body regroup. The twice named MVP’s absence is a huge blow, but she’s not the only one unavailable for the Sparks. They are also missing Nneka Ogumwike who has been sidelined in their four games this season with a sprained ankle. Former Terrapin Kristi Tolliver is still abroad, playing in Slovakia.
That’s left a very heavy load on Alana Beard and Jantel Lavender, they’ve struggled mightily to score as a team this year. Things will be better once those players return, but what shape will the team be in upon their return? Also, Beard didn’t make the trip with the team out East as she suffered a foot injury and missed the last two games.
The Sparks have averaged just 58 points a game this season, the Mystics averaged 68 points a game through their first four games, but have stepped it up in the last two contests. Washington has a plethora of shot makers, they just haven’t all gotten going at the same time yet. In the last two games, the Mystics are averaging 84 points a game and have done so fairly easily.
Washington has seen tremendous growth from their young front court this season, Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson have started five games together. They’ve shown that they are a force to deal with on both ends of the floor and the duo has great chemistry with one another. Emma is on her way to becoming one of the young stars in the league, this season she’s definitely stepped up and shouldered a portion of the offensive load. Scoring nearly 15 points a game and pulling down 7.8 rebounds a contest. Dolson has grown on that end of the floor as well, starting to look like the player that finished strong in her last years at Uconn. The second year center is averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, along with 1.5 swats a contest.
As for those shooters the Mystics have, Latta’s gotten going in a few games this season. Last game against the Fever, she scored 21 of her game high 24 points in the second half, going bonkers from beyond the arc on her way to six triples. When Kara Lawson and Tayler Hill get going, that 84 points the team averaged in the last two games won’t seem like a high number. Definitely keep an eye out for Bria Hartley’s return to the court, she’s yet to play a regular season game, but she did work out and dress for Washington’s last home game. If she’s able to play, it gives Washington even more fire power and gets them closer to their intended starting five.
It’s imperative that Washington do what good teams do, beat the teams they are supposed to beat. With the injuries to the Sparks, even if Ogumwike is able to give it a go, the Mystics have no excuse for leaving the Verizon Center tonight with anything short of a victory. The reason being, even in their two losses this season it felt as if Washington gave it away or let it get away from them. It didn’t feel as if they were lucky to be in it, or not worthy of a win.
The Sparks will have their hands full in the paint, it’s imperative that they knock down shots from the perimeter or the Mystics defense will clamp down and suffocate the shooters. Los Angeles has to find a way to slow the game down as well, the last thing they want to try and do is run with this young Washington team.
Keys to a Mystics Victory
- Get the ball inside. Take advantage of the size and skill you have as a team, don’t forget to feed Emma early and often throughout the game
- Hit open shots. Washington’s offense is fun to watch, they are able to generate quality looks for their shooters. It’s on them to start to knock down shots they are fully capable of hitting
- Don’t let up. In both losses this season, the Mystics held a double-digit lead. They have to learn how to finish off an opponent, Latta led the way in their last game by hitting several daggers in the fourth quarter to end the opposing team’s run
- Maintain tempo. The Mystics have taken those double-digit leads in almost every game because of their tempo, they’ve lost those leads for those reasons as well. They must continue to push the pace for the entire game