Mystics Weekly Insider
Guest Contributor – Andrew Willett
West Coast Road Trip Recap
The Washington Mystics began the week looking to build momentum coming off a dominant win over the Connecticut Sun after going 6-6 since its 5-1 start… but not this week. A brutal west coast road trip saw the team drop games at the hands of the Los Angeles Sparks (6-10), 84-82, before getting jumped in the standings by the Seattle Storm (11-6), 85-71. The team was able to complete the road trip with an overtime win against Las Vegas (13-4), 87-86.
Despite dropping to the fifth seed and just three wins above .500, Washington celebrated its fair share of movement in the franchise and WNBA record books.
- Cloud picked up 5+ assists in both games to push her streak of 5+ assists to 22 games, the 3rd longest streak in WNBA history.
- Cloud dropped 13 assists in a marvelous performance at Los Angeles. This totaled her career-high and set a Mystics’ franchise record.
- Atkins recorded one steal in the loss to Seattle, placing her in a tie for sixth with Coco Miller on Washington’s all-time steals list with 201 career thefts.
- EDD returned in an epic matchup against former MVP and two-time Finals MVP Breanna Stewart to drop 20 points and move up to sixth on the Mystics’ all-time scoring list with 1923 points.
- The Mystics forced a game into overtime with the full-loaded, number one seed Las Vegas Aces.
- EDD recorded a double-double, including 10 rebounds, during the team’s impressive win over the Aja Wilson and the Aces.
Areas of Concern
Washington displayed good moments and stole the momentum to cut into big deficits during the Los Angeles and Seattle games, specifically in the fourth quarter. But ultimately, early mistakes cost the Mystics back-to-back games along with its third loss in four games.
Washington trailed by double-digits multiple times in both the Los Angeles and Seattle losses. Against the Sparks, the Mystics trailed by as many as 16 points with 5:40 to play before a late surge put the team within two free throws of overtime. Cloud matched her 13 assists with 13 points on 4/6 shooting and a perfect 3/3 from downtown including some clutch baskets down the stretch alongside Ariel Atkins’ game-high 22 points, eight of which came in the fourth. But it was not enough even with Liz Cambage fouling out with 1:14 to play as Cloud missed the two free throws (one on purpose) in a two-point game.
In the Seattle matchup, the Storm burst into double-digit leads five times in the second half, but Washington cut the deficit to five, six, and two, three separate times. 2:53 into the fourth quarter, it looked as though Washington would show similar fourth-quarter magic with the added boost of Delle Donne. But the closest the Mystics got was two points after trailing 67-57 to start the quarter. The 10-2 Washington run shut off with the Storm raining on the comeback parade with an 11-2 run of its own. Seattle returned to its big three of Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Sue Bird to finish the game on a 16-4 explosion.
A common factor in the two losses included one of the same faults which stuck out through 20 games of the WNBA season: turnovers. Washington actually holds the third-best turnover percentage at 17.4% on the season. But that number worsens to seventh-best in the W at 19.2%, compared to the second-best TOV% of 16% in wins. This discrepancy of 2.7 more turnovers (15.2 compared to 12.5) in losses clearly indicates a weak spot for defenses to attack Washington. The bigger Sparks squad forced the Mystics into committing 17 turnovers, enough to lose a game where it shot 47.8% from 3. Los Angeles pulled this off due to its size along the frontline with 6’9” Cambage, 6’5” Nneka Ogwumike, and 6’3” Katie Lou Samuelson alongside defensive stoppers like two-time WNBA All-Defensive team member Brittney Sykes and 2019 Champion with the Mystics Kristi Toliver. Seattle’s second-best defense in the W with a 95.6 defensive rating showed off its length with Stewart, Loyd, Gabby Williams, and third-year standout Ezi Magbegor to severely bother Washington.
West Coast Wrap-up
Active hands and long arms reaching into passing lanes proved bothersome for the Mystics, but it will not become any easier. The Las Vegas Aces came off a stunning defeat at the hands of the Chicago Sky behind the largest comeback in WNBA history (28 points). Plus, rookie head coach and WNBA legend Becky Hammon’s squad gave up 104 points, the most all season against the Aces. Hammon stressed defense all season long to her squad so expect Las Vegas to come out angry. She tried to make sure her roster came out with more focus and defensive intensity for the Mystics, but the cards fell in favor of the Mystics.
The Mystics found their grove and took over in the second quarter, causing them to lead going into the half. Alysha Clark, EDD, Natasha Cloud, and Ariel Atkins would all hit double digits in scoring to lead this team to a victory on their last night on the road. In addition to the wide range of scoring, 10 rebounds from EDD and 10 assists from Natasha Cloud would help seal the deal in Las Vegas.
Although the All-Star starters were announced and Washington had no players voted starters, they await the list of All-Star reserves while facing off against six of the ten starters and three of four captains. Of Washington’s opponents this week, Los Angeles’ Ogwumike, Seattle’s Bird and Stewart, and Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young all received recognition as All-Star starters with Bird, Stewart, and Wilson captaining.
Minnesota’s Slyvia Fowles earned the other spot as a co-captain, and New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, and Chicago’s Candace Parker earned the remaining starting spots.
The league’s head coaches will select the 12 reserves. The head coaches will vote for three guards, five frontcourt players, and four players at either position regardless of the conference. The co-captains Wilson and Bird vs. Stewart and Fowles will draft their respective rosters by selecting first from the remaining eight players in the pool of starters and then from the pool of 12 reserves announced on Tuesday, June 28. ESPN will broadcast the WNBA All-Star Team Selection Special on Saturday, July 2 (3pm ET).