Last night in Minnesota, the Washington Mystics made a statement. They are here and are getting better, Washington went into the lion’s den and not only left with a win, but trounced the best team in the Western Conference. The win helped the Mystics move up a bit in the extremely congested Eastern Conference, now in second place behind the red hot New York Liberty. The 79-61 victory over the Lynx came right on the heels of the Mystics beating the Lynx at home in D.C. just a few days prior.
As expected, the Lynx came out and jumped all over the Mystics by getting out to an early lead. It would have been plenty easy for Washington to have caved in and just accept that it wasn’t their night. They didn’t, instead they fought hard to slow the game down to their desired pace and proceeded to take control of the game. Making the Lynx play at their pace, Minnesota doesn’t play at the fastest pace in the league, but they certainly play at a higher pace the their counterparts in Washington.
For the second straight game, Maya Moore struggled to get going. Washington again, had a lot to do with that. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had another great defensive outing against arguably the best scorer in the league. Forcing her into tough shots and defensive help, as mentioned in our preview of the game. Minnesota did make a slight tweak in their game plan, allowing Moore to bring the ball up to initiate the offense, the thinking was to get her into more of a flow as TRP did an outstanding job playing denial in off the ball defense.
Washington started to stretch the lead a bit at the end of the first half, but the Lynx used 13-6 run to close the gap and cut the Mystics lead to two at the break. It wouldn’t matter as this Mystics team refused to get rattled by the Lynx or their crowd. Rather than the home team taking the game over on their floor to start the half, it was the visitors who calmly answered every run by the home team. The Lynx stayed in the game mostly due to their outstanding job on the offensive glass, they definitely struggled to shoot the ball against Washington
Kara Lawson was huge in the win, her veteran leadership and just her skill was on full display. The way she was rubbing her defender off of screens, extending her leg out a bit on jumpshots to draw fouls, just subtleties of the game that young players don’t really get early on. The Lynx really didn’t have an answer for her as it seemed they were focused on not letting the bigs or Ivory Latta get going. Lawson’s 20 points were a team and game high. Minnesota didn’t really have to deal with her when they lost in D.C, but she made her presence felt last night.
Latta scored 16 points in this contest, none of them coming in the first half. As the Lynx coach shared during an interview during the game, Latta’s quickness and ball handling made her an extremely tough cover for her team. The Lynx guards are bigger and aren’t so great at dealing with guards with great pace and change of direction, Ivory hurt the Lynx at home in D.C. and on the road last night in the Target center. Of those 16 points, nine came in the third quarter which is where the Mystics broke the game wide open.
Just to give an idea of the defensive gem pitched by the Mystics defense, they held the dangerous duo of Moore and Seimone Augustus to just 21 points on 7-24 shooting. Holding the Lynx as a team to just 34% from the floor on the night.
With it being a quiet night from Washington’s bevy of bigs, super sub Tayler Hill stepped up and her 10 points went a long way into keeping that margin of victory where it was. The Mystics showed how tough of a team they can be with back to back wins over the Lynx. The road doesn’t get any easier as they take on the Chicago Sky twice this weekend, tomorrow in Chicago and Sunday at home in the Verizon Center.
It’s often said that true character is shown in the face of adversity and the Mystics are starting to show us all who they are as a team. And to think, it looks like it happened during a loss to Indiana a week ago. They haven’t been the same since, they literally bullied the Lynx and won two physical contests. For a young team, these are huge steps going forward. Can it continue in Chicago tomorrow night?