Mystics Kick Off 2nd Half with Liberty

After a week off for the All-Star break the Mystics are back in action on their home court on Wednesday, and will be facing the New York Liberty. Tipoff is at 7 pm.

The Liberty, the only team Washington has yet to face this season, currently posts a 7-11 record and are in fifth place in the East — 1.5 games behind Indiana and 2 games behind the Mystics (9-9).

“It’s kind of weird to be halfway through the season and you haven’t played one of your biggest rivals yet,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault. “And now you’re going to play them about three times in 10 days, so it’s a different feeling.”

This is the first of four matchups between Washington and New York and will prove critical for the playoff standings.

“These are big games for both teams,” Thibault said. “Playoff positioning its probably going to come down to games with New York, with Connecticut, with Indiana, so when you have four games against a team like this you have to set the tone.”

The third-place Mystics will have to work to contain Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter, who leads New York with 18.1 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Pondexter was a starter in this past weekend’s WNBA All-Star game.

But luckily for Washington, they have two All-Stars of their own to help balance the game. Most notably the Mystics will look to point guard Ivory Latta who is not only coming off her first WNBA All-Star selection, but also her second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. The first time All-Star averages a team-high 14.6 points per game and 4.4 assists.

Despite Pondexter starting for the East, it was Latta who hit an offensive stride during the All-Star game, ending with a team-high 15 points in 22 minutes of play. Latta will be critical to slowing down Pondexter on Wednesday.

The Liberty will also look to forward Plenette Pierson who averages 11.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds to help get their offense going. The 10-year pro will find herself matched up with Washington’s other All-Star, forward Crystal Langhorne. Langhorne averages 12.4 points per game and leads the teams with 6.7 assists. New York will also rely on Kara Braxton’s 7.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.

“Plenette Pierson is healthy again and Braxton has played well in the post,” Thibault said.

Unlike Washington, New York has been plagued by injuries with guard Essence Carson being the biggest loss for them this season. In Carson’s four games she averaged 14.3 points and 5.5 assists, but has been out since June 7th.

In addition to watching those matchups, another storyline going into this game is center Quanitra Hollingsworth, who spent last season with the Liberty averaging 4.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds.

“Its going to be a tough game,” Thibault said. “Winning against them on our home court would be huge toward the playoff spot.”

After Wednesday’s game, the Mystics will be on the road on Friday facing the Chicago Sky before returning home on Sunday for an afternoon matchup with Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks.