The Phoenix Mercury had lost their identity, coming into this game at 4-9. Unfortunately for the streaking Mystics, Phoenix found it early in this one. The young Washington team would fight back, cutting a 17 point deficit to as low as five, only to have the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi put them away. It was a historic night for the former Uconn star, she became the fastest player in WNBA history to score 7,000 points. She would finish with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Mercury needed everyone of those points from Taurasi as the Mystics went down, but refused to wilt. Powered by their young backcourt duo of Tayler Hill and Natasha Cloud. Hill has shown her scoring prowess all season long, she led the charge when Washington was down 17. She along with Cloud who got extremely hot from beyond the arc. Known more for her playmaking, the second year guard from St. Joes knocked down 5 of her 7 attempts from deep. Washington would out score Phoenix 25-15 in the third period.
The Mercury started the final period the same way they started the first, by feeding Britteny Griner. After scoring 11 points in 11 minutes to start the game, Washington did a good job of sending an extra man and forcing her to pick up her dribble before making a post move. What changed? Taurasi heating up gave Griner a bit more space. Once Griner regained her scoring touch in the post, Washington tried to pack the paint and make life more difficult. Unfortunately for them, Diana kept dropping daggers and killing runs. It felt like every one of her buckets ended a Washington run, Phoenix would hold on to win by 12. Breaking their losing streak and getting their first win of the season.
Washington’s three game win streak is over, but they have a chance to get two more wins at home on this home stand. They fall back under .500, but are 2-1 with two games remaining. The first is on Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx, they’ll be coming off their first loss of the season.
Griner’s Impact. The Mercury made it clear that the focus was to play inside out early on. Getting the ball into Griner in one-on- one situations and she delivered. As always, her presence was felt on the defensive end. Washington’s last two games consisted of the guards attacking the basket, against the Mercury only Tayler Hill found success. Many layups were altered and three shots were blocked emphatically. With DT returning after being gone last season, it’s fair to think that some of the struggles was the team getting used to her and Griner being out on the floor.
Slow Start. Griner’s presence had something to do with it, but it felt as if Washington was overthinking at times and speeding themselves up. After looking sharp on the offensive end int the last two outings, they struggled mightily to find a flow, a rhythm. A couple of players shared the sentiment that the slow start put them in a hole and while the comeback was impressive, they should have never been in that situation. They are right.
DT. There’s not much to say, she lived up to that billing of being named to the WNBA’s 20 in 20 list. Where the best 20 players in league history call home, Diana is a student of the game and talked at length about the history of the game, the league when asked about her reaching this milestone. She displayed that well known killer instinct in this contest, her team needed it as she answered everyone of Washington’s bids to get back into the game and retake the lead. The living legend showered the young Mystics team with praise after the game.
Hill. This performance is just yet another example of Tayler putting her full talents on display, anytime one of the league’s greatest players “stamps” you as one of the better up and coming players, it’s official. Hill is on her way to stardom, she has been Washington’s most consistent player this season and her will to win was evident during Washington’s rally attempt.
Cloud. The 2nd year point guard is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, she looks nothing like the rookie coming off the bench last season. She’s the other half of a very promising Washington backcourt that could be on their way to stardom. She’s a pass first point guard with a great feel for the game, against the Mercury, like Hill, her will to win shown through. She knocked down 5-of-7 triples during that rally, while getting others involved, especially in the pick-and-roll game. As Taurasi mentioned after the game, Washington has the type of young talent that could “run the league”.