Mystics Gear up for Playoff Push

Winning four of their last five games, the Washington Mystics are starting to play like a playoff team. Asked about how the team has grown, head coach Mike Thibault said, “You could tell that we were doing things better. We were moving the ball; we were stepping into our shots a lot more confidently. The threes that we were missing earlier in the season we’re starting to make, and the defense has stayed pretty much consistent.”

In the four wins, the Mystics shot a respectable 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc, and along with the impressive shooting, the team also shut down their opponents, holding the four teams to 36% shooting and 25% from deep.

But with only a game and a half separating the second-place team and the last-place team in the East, the Mystics need to continue their winning ways. With just ten games left, every game is, as veteran forward Monique Currie puts it, a playoff game. After the upcoming game against the Tulsa Shock this Friday, every game thereafter will be against a conference foe. But the Mystics are smarter than to be overlooking the Shock.

In Thursday’s afternoon practice, Washington focused on familiarizing itself with Tulsa’s plays and the team hopes to stop Tulsa’s potent offense, which has scored a combined 185 points in its last two games. Thibault emphasized slowing down the Shock’s dynamic young guards, rookie Odyssey Sims and second-year player Skyler Diggins. The Mystics were successful in containing the two on July 12th, holding both to below their season averages, seven and 16 points, respectively, and Washington will be looking to repeat that defensive effort.

But no matter how hard the team tries to think in terms of playing one game at a time, the goal for this young group is making the playoffs. When forward Emma Meesseman was asked about the team’s focus on trying to make the playoffs, she said, “It’s kind of all that we talk about during practice, [and] that we have to be close to perfect now in our games to reach the playoffs.” She added that the team is in a good position to reach the postseason and just needs to maintain its play.

Thibault is cautious about the upcoming playoff battle, however. Noting how tight the race is in the East, Thibault said, “you could go three days without playing and change three spots in the standings. We’ve gone back and forth from sixth to second over the last two weeks. We have to take care of business, particularly at home. Yesterday against Connecticut was huge. Winning this game against Tulsa would be huge.”