The All-Star game has passed and Washington is back in the building to start the second half of the season. They finished the first half of the season on a three game win streak, moving into third place in the East and trailing the Liberty by just two games. The visiting Storm went into the break with a loss, they are not having the greatest of years as they sit near the bottom of the standings in the West. Unlike the Sparks who are at the bottom, there’s no Candice Parker level player walking through their doors. The Mystics mentioned at the start of the year that they wanted to compete for a championship, well to take the next step and compete for a ring. They get a chance to show that they’re ready to take the next step as the second half of the season they’ll face some very tough teams and teams they should beat. Sometimes the hardest thing is to win the games you’re “supposed” to win, that’s one of the differences between a champion and a contender.
Seattle has talent, it’s just not ready yet. Outside of Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne, there’s only one other player on their roster with five years experience in the league. It’s also typically the case when a team had the number one and number three overall selections in the draft. They selected Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with those picks, again that doesn’t mean that they don’t have talent. Every team isn’t going to be like Washington, where the young players make huge jumps between each season. Having their potential realized on the floor sooner than later. Definitely wouldn’t be shocked if their youngsters start getting more comfortable during this half of the season. The Storm recently acquired guard Monica Wright from the Lynx in part of a three-team deal that netted Minnesota Sylvia Fowles. She can definitely help alleviate some of the pressure off of Bird and Langhorne once she gets healthy.
As for Washington, it’s about living up to those words shared on Media Day. “Taking the next step, compete for a championship.” There hasn’t been one game this season in which the Mystics looked like they were on the short end of the stick talent wise. The reshuffling of the lineup has definitely played a role in the win streak, but it’ll be interesting to see if that turns into a strict rotation from here on out. Which means the on the job development for Natasha Cloud is key, if the rook is able to improve her game while running the team efficiently, it’ll go a long way.
With injuries to players in the first half, if Washington gets healthy they become an even deeper team. Keep in mind, last year’s starting center has only played one game this season. If Washington wishes to go on a run, get back to the top of the East (where they spent some time earlier this season) and compete for a championship, some of those not so good trends need to stay in the first half of the season.
Keys to a Mystics Victory
- Feed the Post. Earlier this season it was about feeding Emma Meesseman. After her and Stefanie Dolson were named to the East squad as All-Star reserves, it’s time that Washington makes sure that both young bigs get their touches throughout the game. It’s where their bread is buttered, when they are both involved, defenses don’t have an answer and it opens things up for the perimeter players
- Run. The Mystics have shown that when they are at their best, they run. After misses, after makes, they run. It’s a fast team with bigs that are fully capable of getting down the floor. They have more than enough ball handlers to get out and make this happen, especially with the type of defense they are capable of playing
- Sustain runs. In almost every game this season, Washington has carved out a double-digit lead, then failed to deliver the knockout punch or drop the proverbial dagger into their opponent. That has to change as the playoff race will start to heat up, especially in a conference as close as the East
- Take and Make 3s. The Mystics have not shot the ball well from beyond the arc at all when considering the caliber of shooters on their roster. Those players have to continue to have confidence in their shots and continue to take those shots. It loosens up a defense and makes it hard for teams to double down on their bigs