The Washington Mystics made it three in a row last night with a win over the Indiana Fever, one of their rivals or at least that’s what it feels like every time they meet. The young Mystics showed toughness and poise in their win, rallying from nine down and pushing the lead to 16 at one point. The last three games is the team many expected to see this year, they’ve been solid on the road, but had struggled at home prior to this home stand. With the playoff format changing, every single game is important as the top eight teams regardless of conference make the playoffs.
Their 76-62 win over the Fever last night moved Washington to 7-7 on the year, moving them up to third place in the East. Still, the league standings matter far more now. The Mystics were in 7th place had the playoffs started yesterday, now they are in 5th with three more chances at home to move up. It doesn’t get any easier though, they face the Mercury, Lynx, and Stars before heading back out on the road.
Fight. It was evident throughout the contest, the Mystics refused to get bullied. In the past, that physicality from Indiana would knock the young Washington team off their goal. Last night, they embraced the physicality and played through it. Late in the game it was the Fever who were rattled by the physicality, who lost their composure. While the Mystics just kept plugging away en route to victory.
Bench Production. Both teams got big contributions from their bench, the Fever were led by Lynetta Kizer. The former Terp had a game-high 18 points on 8/11 shooting. She along with Erica Wheeler (10 points) and Deveraux Peters (7 points) led a second unit that outscored the starters. Washington got contributions from their vets, both Ivory Latta and Kia Vaughn were big in the fourth quarter as the Mystics extended their lead. Vaughn had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and a big steal. Latta delivered a couple of timely triples to end Fever runs.
Copper. The boxscore says she had 6 points and 5 rebounds, which isn’t a lot. She contributed much more than that, her energy helped spark a rally late in the first quarter. Her ability to get a rebound and push it up the floor in transition put a different type of pressure on the Fever as she’s 6’1 and very athletic. Her activity on both ends, especially on defense helped keep the Mystics out of those mini-lulls in intensity they’ve had at times this season.
Cloud. The second year guard is far more comfortable this season, than last. She handled the ball quite a bit last night, having just one turnover. She finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds, those rebounds were the highest on the team. Her ability to make plays for others in the pick-and-roll game was evident last season and has improved this year, the difference is willingness to get downhill and attack the basket. She had a couple of tough drives where she used her size once beating her defender to ward off the bigs and finish in traffic. Both of which she wouldn’t have done last season, that size also helped on the defensive end as she was tall and strong enough to fight through the screens and switch on to bigs for a bit longer than a smaller guard would.
Veteran leadership. They’re playing less minutes than they have in the past, but Ivory and Kia had a big imprint on last night’s game. They brought a sense of calm during Washington’s struggles and led the charge of playing tough down the stretch. The duo can be matched with any set of teammates, giving the Mystics the luxury of having far more than five starters. You can hear Kia calling the shots on the defensive end while Ivory is pumping up teammates when needed, just because they’re coming off the bench doesn’t mean their impact on the game is lessened.