The window is closing on the WNBA regular season, the Washington Mystics still have a few games left. They’re currently at the end of a week long road trip that has been very frustrating from a result stand point, but has shown just how strong a team they have. The Mystics have truly missed veteran Kara Lawson during this trip, there’s only a few veterans on the team and she’s been able to help them in big games this season at the most important times. It’s not always her scoring a basket, but taking a charge, or making the right pass, or simply being an option on the court which helps better space the floor. Still, there have been quite a few positives on this trip and their last stop is today in Atlanta against Angel McCoughtry and the Dream.
The Dream are still technically eligible for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but it’d take Washington going on an even bigger slide. Washington’s magic number to clinch the fourth and final postseason spot is one. If they can leave Atlanta with a win, they’ll arrive back home in D.C. as a postseason bound team for the second consecutive season.
Today’s game should be fun as it features two desperate teams, Atlanta can’t afford to lose and Washington just wants to get this over with while it’s still a “formality” versus continuing to slide and ending up in dire circumstances a week from now. For the Dream to make the postseason, they’d need to have the Mystics lose their last four games of the season and for them to win their last four games. A loss to Washington ends their postseason hopes this afternoon and they definitely don’t want that.
Washington has lost their last three games, well every game on the current road trip. As a young team one of their biggest issues this season has been closing out games, that has bitten them in two of the three games on the trip. They’ll get out to a great start, build a strong lead, then go in some sort of a drought offensively and fall short of victory. While it might be tough for fans and extremely frustrating for the players, all is not lost.
If Washington can figure that area of the game out, they can and will be a formidable force to deal with in the postseason (should they get there). One of the positives during this losing streak has been the play of Bria Hartley and Tayler Hill, for the first time in a year both players are healthy. They give the Mystics a change of pace, they’re bigger guards that are capable of creating for themselves and others. Both are attack minded players that command attention on the offensive end of the floor, they also have great length on the defensive end allowing them to switch easily.
As for Atlanta, they’ll offer the same set of problems they present to every team. The Angel McCoughtry conundrum, how do you stop her? She’s averaging 20.6 points per game this season and is never fully taken out of a game. It’ll be another big matchup for Washington’s Tierra Ruffin-Pratt who’s had to guard some of the best scorers in the league in this last month of play, in Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, Dewanna Bonner and now Angel.
As in every game it’s imperative that Washington get their two All-Stars going early and keep them involved all game long. Rookie Natasha Cloud appeared to have hit that proverbial “Rookie Wall” at the start of this road trip, but has really found her comfort level with an 11 assist performance against the Sparks. That second unit needs to regain it’s strength as well, they have more than enough firepower on that group, but more often than not it seems that they forget to get the ball inside to Kia Vaughn at times.
Last season around this time, Vaughn made a great point during a post game interview. She stated that it’s better to take lessons from losses as long as you go into the post season on a roll. Well Washington has an opportunity in front of them to show that they have short memories, lock in, and get on a roll heading into the playoffs. It starts today at 3:00 pm Eastern on NBA TV against the Atlanta Dream.