Notes & Quotes: Mystics Stop Fever, 82-75

MYSTICS NOTES

  • The Washington Mystics (1-0) defeated the Indiana Fever (0-2), 82-75, Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena. Mystics guard Kristi Toliver scored a team-high 16 points on 6-11 (.545) from the field and 4-6 (.667) from 3-point range.
  • Every Mystics player got on the board with four players scoring in double figures – Toliver (16), forward Elena Delle Donne (13), forward Monique Currie (11) and guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (11)
  • Washington shot 28-67 (.418) from the field and topped Indiana in both 3-point shooting percentage (11-25; .440) and free throw shooting percentage (15-16; .938).
  • Washington tallied 18 assists, compared to Indiana’s 13, and committed 10 turnovers while forcing 15 on the defensive end.
  • Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half to go along with a team-leading seven assists and five rebounds.
  • The Mystics took a 38-30 lead into halftime, outshooting the Fever from the field, 3-point range and the free throw line. Washington guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt’s seven points led all scorers.
  • Washington led, 21-17, after the first quarter. The Mystics and Fever each shot 6-16 (.375) from the field in the opening frame, though Washington separated themselves from 3-point range, shooting 4-9 (.444) compared to Indiana’s 0-2 (.000). Guard Natasha Cloud led the Mystics in first-quarter scoring, tallying five points despite playing just two minutes.
  • The Mystics are back in action on Tuesday, May 22, hosting the Las Vegas Aces (0-1) at 7 p.m. at Capital One Arena.

MYSTICS HEAD COACH MIKE THIBAULT

On the game:
“We’ll take the win, that’s what I told our team. It was ugly at times. You want to get your first one, you’ve got some nerves…a little bit in the first half. I don’t think we had a real good rhythm. I thought we played hard and I thought our bench, particularly our young players, did a terrific job of giving us a little bit of momentum. Ariel [Atikins], Shatori [Walker-Kimbrough] and Myisha [Hines-Allen]…[Natasha] Tash [Cloud] off the bench. I think they did a terrific job, and they showed a little less nerves than the others at the start. Maybe they just don’t know better.”

On Elena Delle Donne:
“It’s funny because I watched her warmup before the game and I don’t think she missed a shot for about 20 minutes. I thought, boy that’s a good rhythm. Then we ran the first play for her and it didn’t go and she air-balled one. I think she was pressing a little bit. The good thing about her it that you can come right back to her. We started the second half and ran plays for her and she got herself going a little bit. When you have a player with that type of ability, they’ve played long enough to know that eventually the shots will fall.”

On the three-point shot that Kristi Toliver hit in the fourth quarter:
“That left side of the floor feels like home to her. She has shot the ball well throughout training camp. I think she spent a lot of time looking for others earlier in the game, but I think we probably needed a little bit more aggressiveness from her each quarter and trying to score. Just to balance how people play us too. But, the nice thing about her and [Monique] Mo’s [Currie] three, and Elena [Delle Donne] is that they’ve been through this enough that they’re not afraid of those moments at the end of games either.

On the Mystics bench:
“They came in and played at a good pace. They got up and down the floor. We got a couple steals with that group.  Shatori [Walker-Kimbrough] got a steal, Ariel [Atkins] got a steal, she [Atkins] knocked down a big three. All those things, they just played. I was thrilled with how that group played.”

MYSTICS FORWARD ELENA DELLE DONNE

On getting an ugly win:
“Ugly might be an understatement. That’s always great when you can get a win even when it’s not pretty. It’s much easier to learn from it and look back on it when there is a ‘W’ in the win-loss column. It’s huge that we were able to kind of just grind through it and get past it, learn from it, watch a little film. We’ve got a game right around the corner, which I’m super excited about because I feel like we want to get back out there and show what we really can look like.” 

On the rookies, Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins, and the second unit:
“The production out of the second unit was so important to us. They came in and they lifted us. They gave us energy, played great defense. Our rookies played great and they played like the way they can. It’s always great to see because you know the nerves are probably flying. They were settled and they played the way they can and gave us huge minutes.

MYSTICS FORWARD MONIQUE CURRIE

On the last 13 points coming from her, Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Tolliver and veteran experience:
“I think we have a great balance of veteran and young players here. Obviously, we have a superstar in [Elena] Delle Donne, a very good player in [Kristi] Tolliver, and I just fall in and get in where I fit in and try to contribute where I can. We move the ball well, whoever is open can take the shot and we believe in each other that we can make shots.”

On defense:
“Without looking at the stats sheet, there are lot of things we need to work on. Mainly, working on our rotations and talking more on defense, so that people don’t get lost or stuck in screens. I know we will look at the film and figure out what we can improve. I think the biggest thing would be our communication.”

On the rookies, Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins:
“They’ve been playing great all training camp. I’ve seen what they can do, I know what they can do and I think the people out there are now getting a chance to see them on this level. They did great. They were poised, I’m sure they had some nerves, but after the game got going, I’m sure they calmed down and made some good shots.”

MYSTICS LEADERS:
Points:
Kristi Toliver – 16
Rebounds:
Elena Delle Donne, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt – 5
Assists: Delle Donne – 7
Steals:
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Myisha Hines-Allen – 2

FEVER HEAD COACH POKEY CHATMAN

On the Fever’s rebounding:
“We were out-rebounded significantly less than 24 hours ago. To bounce back and win the boards plus-12 and to couple that with some transition opportunities – we were able to get up and down the floor. There were a lot of positives, but where I think we shot ourselves in the foot is that we had 16 turnovers and the Mystics had 17 points off of that. Also, we were happy about getting to the line 25 times, but we only made 16. We left some things on the table in that regard. [We have] a lot of work to do. I was pleased with some of the ability to bounce back when Washington had some momentum, to respond after timeouts. We’ll watch the game, evaluate it and try to make some improvements for Tuesday.”

On what caused their turnovers:
“I’m always going to give credit to the opposition when it’s due. I would say maybe four of those [turnovers] we aided in that, in terms of picking up a dribble, or maybe putting the ball too close to the sideline where they only have to guard a smaller area. I don’t like to take anything away from an opponent, but I think we didn’t help ourselves in that way.”

On Kelsey Mitchell’s second game:
“Better, but it wasn’t that hard to be better. I would say that she’s starting to learn a little bit of the nuances of the game. It’s a lot for any rookie to come into this league – and you can tell them and they can practice – but until they see it, and feel it and get reps, it’s going to be a process. I thought that she bounced back from the last game. I think what helps the younger players is when the veteran players start off well. It’s not about final stats. I say that and I look at Natalie Achonwa, and I think that she had a double-double, but what she did in that is that she struggled and then she bounced back. Candace Dupree and some of those players. I was pleased that it was more positive than yesterday.”

On defending Elena Delle Donne:
“I think it was one of those things where she was 1-for-9 at the half, [Kristi] Toliver was 1-for-4. They’re All-Stars, they’re the head of the snake. I’m sure they were issued a challenge in the locker room, they responded – maybe not at the level that they’re used to, but I thought they responded. You mix that in with our inability to take care of the basketball [and] it became a recipe for our demise. I’ll give credit in forcing Elena to take tough shots. That’s what you have to do. If you can hold her to 13-15 points and she usually averages 20, that’s a plus. Don’t misunderstand me, that’s not enough.” 

FEVER CENTER NATALIE ACHONWA

On their first road goad and the fight they had till the end:
We definitely needed to bounce back from yesterday against Chicago. I think the effort was there today. The energy was there. Of course not the outcome but we definitely improved today, and with a young team and a new group, that is really the end result that we want is to improve every day and as long as we keep building and continuing forward then, eventually we will get to the point where we are getting wins and what we want.”

On leading her team in scoring and what got her going:
I was like 2-7 yesterday so I was just trying to make sure that I was being aggressive. Our guards do a great job of coming off ball screens and using ball screens where they are drawing two, so it is really up to me just to make them, and I was really trying to focus on being aggressive on the glass today as well, so a lot of those buckets came from offensive rebounds.

On what they are looking to improve on going into their next game:
So much. It is always so much with a young group but like I said, as long as we build on that. KYP is something we talk about is knowing your personnel. Knowing who we are going against in LA. Knowing if Candace [Parker] is back, knowing her tendencies, knowing what Nneka [Ogumuike] likes to do on the dives and the weak side and if we really focus on the little details that makes a difference for us.”

FEVER GUARD KELSEY MITCHELL

On their first road game and the fight they had till the end:
“It just stems from playing hard, giving it all you got of course. It sounds cliché but it is a lot for our team considering how young we are and ‘un-veteran’ we are. We only have one vet and she always makes it count for us and helping us out whenever we need. It has been cool. We did not get the win that we wanted but it is alright.”

On her play today:
“I don’t know just finding my niche. Finding out where I can get buckets and where I cannot, and capitalizing on what they give me.”

On what they need to improve on moving forward:
“Being able to play at this level. Playing for forty minutes, not thirty, not thirty five, we do not want to pick it up at the end.” 

FEVER LEADERS:
Points:
Natalie Achonwa – 21
Rebounds:
Achonwa – 12
Assists: Erica Wheeler – 5
Steals: Three players – 2