Mystics Ready for NY and Atlanta
Things are getting very interesting for the last two-playoff spots in the East - and the Washington Mystics (11-13) are at the heart of it all.
The 2012 WNBA champion Indiana Fever (11-11) currently sit in third place in the East, while the Mystics are one game back in fourth. Only a half game behind Washington, the New York Liberty (10-13) sit in fifth.
"We have to take it one game at a time, that's what we have to do," said All-Star point guard Ivory Latta. "New York is a big game for us and also going down into Atlanta, another hostile environment, is big. Our backs are up against the wall, but at the same time I think we can prevail through anything that's put in front of us."
With the Mystics fighting to fend off the Liberty, Washington has a chance to extend its lead over New York with a critical game on Friday. The two teams face off in New York in what will be the third game of the series. The Liberty grabbed the first two games, but the Mystics have a chance to tie the series with Friday's game and a fourth game on September 15th.
Leading the way for the Liberty is All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter who averages 19 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Pondexter is third in the WNBA in scoring. Washington also has to watch out for forward Plenette Pierson who averages 12 points per game and 5.5 assists.
"We have to continue to play team basketball," Latta said. "Whenever we move the ball around it's a beautiful thing. We have to continue to play defense, get rebounds, and make shots. If you go back and look at the games that we lost we didn't shoot the ball well. We just have to continue to shoot the ball well and get the ball up and down the court."
After Friday's matchup, the Mystics will have no time to rest. They face the Atlanta Dream (11-8) on Sunday on the road. The Dream are in second place in the East - just two and a half games up on Washington.
Sunday's game will be the third of five matchups between the two teams. The Dream won the first two, but the Mystics face them three times in four games and a little momentum could turn the series around. Atlanta is currently on a three-game losing streak and has yet to win in the month of August. Meanwhile, Washington has won two straight including one over the WNBA-leading Minnesota Lynx. So the Mystics need to strike when the iron is hot.
In order for Washington to do that they will need to contain All-Star guard Angel McCoughtry who averages 21.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 3.1 steals. McCoughtry is second in the WNBA in scoring and steals. She is the ultimate all-around player who is critical to the Dream's success.
Atlanta also has forward Erika de Souza who averages 12.5 points per game and nine rebounds. Souza is fifth in the league in rebounds and fourth in the league in shooting percentage hitting 56.8% of her shots.
"We have to limit those touches," Latta said of Pondexter and McCoughtry. "Try to take the ball away from them as much as possible and try to make everybody around them score, but at the same time we have to play team defense. If I'm guarding Cappie or Tayler's guarding Cappie one-on-one its team defense, that’s what we have to rely on."
With two critical games coming up, the Mystics have the opportunity to extend their lead in the playoff standings and comfortably go into the last part of the season. At the same time, however, Washington has to find a way to win one of its two games this weekend in order to stay in the race.