The Mystics (4-5) are gearing up to play two vital home games against the Eastern Conferences leading teams this weekend; Friday night against the Chicago Sky (5-4) and a Fathers Day matchup against the Atlanta Dream (5-3) on Sunday afternoon. Atlanta and Chicago, both teams of which were widely expected to be serious playoff contenders this year, currently sit one-two in the Eastern Conference standings and will prove to be tough tests for a Mystics team desperate for a win after three consecutive losses.
First up, the Chicago Sky. Chicago started the season hot with a 5-1 record but, like the Mystics, have lost three straight. Chicago has not been at full strength all season and has seen numerous key players miss time due to injuries. All-Star Sylvia Fowles has not played in a game yet this season, Epiphanny Prince just returned to action on June 7th, Jessica Breland missed their last game with a leg injury, and 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne missed their last game with an illness and wont play in Fridays Mystics-Sky game as she continues to receive treatment for Lyme disease. Fowles is also not expected to play Friday.
Head coach Mike Thibault has stressed that the Mystics need to start playing well at home. The Mystics are struggling at Verizon Center with a 2-4 record while they are 2-1 on the road. Thibault added, You got to protect your home court and its been a struggle for us.
Both Washington and Chicago are seeing this game as an opportunity to end their losing streak, and in order to do so, the Mystics need to start shooting the ball better. Although Washington is one of the top defensive teams in the league right now, holding opponents to a league-leading 40.4% field goal percentage, they are also only shooting 40.6%, which is second-worst in the league.
When asked about the teams shooting woes, Thibault stressed the fact that the team is taking good shots, and he said, Its not like theyve been a lot of contested shots, its open shots. Id feel worse if we were taking hard shots or taking bad shots. Were not. Were taking good shots, and its just not going in. When youre in that mode, you just got to stick with it and hope you shoot your way back into a good groove.
For Sundays matchup, first-place Atlanta is coming into the game on a two-game winning streak and, most recently, blowing out Chicago 97-59. Atlanta is led by center Erika de Souza, who averages almost a double-double per game with 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
When asked about what the team has been focusing on to end the losing streak, Mystics forward Mo Currie said that the team has been focusing on taking care of the small things, making good decisions on offense, taking care of the ball, and doing a better job on defense, getting stops. If executed, the smarter play should help the Mystics prevent the slow starts coming out of halftime that have hindered the team.
Currie, a long time Mystic and veteran, also understands the streaky nature of professional basketball and that its necessary for the team to keep its composure. But, she also emphasized that the season is short you got to turn things around pretty quickly and Im pretty confident that we will.
About a quarter of the way through the season, the Mystics are hopeful that these next two games will put them above .500 and put them once again on the path towards the playoffs.
Tip-off for Fridays game is 7pm against the Chicago Sky and 4pm Sunday against the Atlanta Dream. Both games can be seen on Monumental Network.