It’s early in the season, but the Mystics are off to a promising start after a pair of home victories to tip off 2018. Tuesday’s 75-70 win over a shorthanded Las Vegas squad was certainly a closer call than Washington had in mind, but finding room for improvement after wins is better than the alternative.
With that said, let’s get to the four big keys to the Mystics’ win over Vegas in DC…
Delle Donne weathers the storm
After an 0-9 start from the field as a team, Elena Delle Donne scored all nine of the Mystics’ first-quarter points. The Mystics shot just 2-16 from the field in the frame. On the night, however, Delle Donne poured in 23 points (17 in the first half) to go with 11 rebounds. That kept Washington within striking distance as the team struggled to score in the first half and mustered just 23 points before the break.
Rookie and the Vet lead the way back
If Delle Donne kept the Mystics in the game, it was the bench that won it. Tianna Hawkins (17 points, seven rebounds) and rookie guard Ariel Atkins (15 points) scored 10 points apiece in the fourth quarter to rally Washington to a victory in a game where they trailed by as many as 16. Combined, the duo hit four 3-pointers in the fourth (Washington hit eight total on the night), and made plays on both ends of the floor to grind out a victory. Natasha Cloud also added seven points on the night and was critical to upping the Mystics’ tempo in the second half. Her driving layup with 13.6 seconds remaining helped put the game on ice.
Third-quarter run proves critical
Trailing by eight in the final two minutes of the third quarter, Atkins showed nearly every reason the Mystics drafted her in less than 30 seconds. After a steal that led to a nice pull-up jumper, she hit a 3-pointer in the following Mystics possession and saved a ball from going out of bounds on the defensive end that led to an Aces shot clock violation. Natasha Cloud capped the third with a 3-point play on a lay-in, tying the game and finishing an 8-0 run to close the frame. That two-minute span gave Washington the shot in the arm it needed to finish an ugly game strong.
Take it on the Road
The Mystics’ first road trip of the season is up next with a Thursday night matchup on the docket in Indiana. Tip-off against the Fever is set for 7 p.m. Washington will play four of its next five games on the road, with Sunday’s home matchup against the Lynx as the lone home game in the stretch.