Mystics Hit the Road
As the young Mystics team moves throughout its streaky season, Washington hopes that its most recent win against the Chicago Sky will ignite another streak that moves the team back on track.
After losing three straight games, including two at home, the Mystics are looking to bounce back and be in a position to capture the final Eastern conference playoff spot. Wednesday’s win, which necessitated the Mystics to quash a late Chicago surge, was a good start, as the Sky are currently holding the final playoff slot.
On the win, guard Bria Hartley, Washington’s leading scorer of the night, emphasized that the team was successful because they were able to stick to the game plan and control the Sky defensively. The team was also able to once again rely on the steady performance of forward Emma Meesseman, who added another double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Meesseman credited her success, as she has all season, to head coach Mike Thibault’s encouragement and near demand to be more confident in taking more shots. The coaching has paid off. Big time. After not recording any double-doubles her rookie season, Meesseman now has four double-doubles and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
With just 14 games left in the season, the Mystics are in a good position to jump the struggling Sky team. Without star player Elena Delle Donne, Chicago has lost 11 of their last 15 games and is vulnerable to a Mystics surge. But the Mystics have a tall order ahead of them, specifically, the last three games of their roadtrip that moves them through Tulsa, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
This roadtrip will pit Washington against the league’s best scorers. On Saturday, Thibault and the Mystics will be looking to slow down the league’s second-best scorer in Skylar Diggins, who averages 21.4 points per game. Diggins has a knack for getting to the free throw line, as seen by her 12 for 12 performance from the charity stripe her last game against the Indiana Fever and her 7 for 8 showing against Connecticut on Tuesday. In addition to containing Diggins, the Mystics will need to take advantage of Tulsa’s struggling defense, which is giving up a league-high 83 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot 46.5% from the field.
After Tulsa, the Mystics will be flying to Phoenix and face perhaps the toughest challenge of the trip, facing the league-leading Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday, July 15th. The Mercury are the league’s highest-scoring team, averaging almost 85 points per game and shooting an impressive 49.2%. In order to avoid a repeat of June 10th’s loss, Washington will need to play better defense and limit Phoenix’s leading scorers—veteran guard Diana Taurasi and center Brittney Griner.
The last stop of the trip is a date against the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday, July 17th. After their last matchup in Verizon Center, a triple-overtime thriller that resulted in a Mystics victory, this game is expected once again to be a closely contested. Despite having a relatively high-octane offense, averaging almost 79 points per game, the Sparks have struggled to contain their opponents. By giving up 56.8% shooting, Los Angeles have been unable to use Candace Parker’s all-star season to propel the team to more victories.
In order to return to D.C. in a position to make a playoff push, the Mystics will need, as the players have said all year, to continue to stick to the game plan. Their youth and their reputation as the league’s best defense will be tested, but as this team has proven all season, they are more than capable of overcoming this challenge.