The Washington Mystics started their three-game home stand to open the 2016 season with a loss to the New York Liberty. Despite missing several players and their All-Star front court struggling, the Mystics put up one heck of a fight before falling 87-76 last night. Washington was powered by their guards, led by Tayler Hill with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Leading New York was a familiar name, Ms. Tina Charles finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She got help from the perimeter in the form of Sugar Rodgers, 19 points along with 5 rebounds and 4 steals.
The Mystics started well, then surged ahead by earning a 9 point lead in the second quarter. Then it was the “Charles” quarter, as evident by the score, it wasn’t a high scoring game so her 9 points in the third really changed things. This wasn’t the first time that she took things into her own hands against Washington, she had a few of those “quarters” against the Mystics in the playoffs. The Liberty got back to playing their stifling brand of defense and went on a run thanks to Tina. Washington would rally in the fourth behind Bria Hartley’s shots from beyond the arc, the third-year guard got it going and provided 17 points off the bench.
The Mystics would tie it at 73 late, but they struggled to execute down the stretch on the offensive end. It was the first time all season in which they just looked “young” and there wasn’t a vet on the floor to kind of calm things down. It’ll certainly be a learning experience going forward, the Liberty did execute and that was the difference.
Rebounding: It was emphasized on media day and during the preseason. Despite their bigs struggling, Washington won the battle on the glass 39-34. The Mystics guards did a great job, accounting for 24 of those 39.
Tina Charles: The former Uconn star continued her success against Washington, leading a pivotal third quarter charge that allowed the Liberty to gain control of the game. When she started scoring inside, Washington sent double-teams and she did a great job of moving the ball without wasting a dribble. That put extra stress on the Mystics defense and opened up some rebounding opportunities on the offensive glass. Her type of consistency is what both Meesseman and Dolson are working towards.
Tayler Hill: She looks so much different than the player we saw at the end of last season. Hill looked and played like one of the top guards in the league, getting to her spots and getting the shots that she wanted. Her handle has improved and it showed whenever she went 1-on-1 against her defender, she also was deadly in the pick-and-roll game. She didn’t shoot it great (6/15), but she was 50% from beyond the arc, connecting on four of her eight attempts.
Kahleah Copper: The first round pick proved her worth to her team in her first regular season contest. She would be limited in the second half due to foul trouble, but her activity was impressive. Kahleah finished the game with 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals in 24 minutes of action. Her ability to rebound and attack the rim kept the Liberty off balance. It’ll be fun watching her continue to grow, she’ll definitely be a player that opponents don’t enjoy facing.
Confident guards: Tayler wasn’t the only guard on Washington’s roster playing with confidence. Bria Hartley started to look like her old self, putting defenders on skates and attacking. It was clear that she felt good when she started going to step-back three pointers. Natasha Cloud also looked much more confident, she looked to attack off the pick-and-roll, getting downhill versus just trying to set the table for others. Not a great shooting night for her, but she helped the team on the glass and finding teammates.