Mystics: G – Cloud, G – Hill, F – Ruffin-Pratt, F – Meesseman, C – Dolson
Storm: G – Loyd, G – Bird, F – Clark, F – Stewart, C – Langhorne
A “Playoff” Game
This year, the WNBA changed their playoff format. Conferences have been thrown out the window and it will now be the top eight teams in the league who advance to the postseason.
So how big is Friday night’s game? Well, the Mystics and Storm are separated by just a half game in the standings and the two teams have split the season series, 1-1. So, if the Mystics win Friday, they would not only jump the Storm for the eighth and final playoff spot, but would also hold the all important tie-breaker. And with just four games remaining (three for Seattle) following Friday’s tilt, that tie-breaker may very well come into play.
The Mystics finish the season playing home against Indiana, @ New York, @ Atlanta, and then home against Connecticut in the season finale. The Storm play home against Los Angeles, @ Phoenix, and finish home against Chicago.
The Mystics are also a half game behind the Mercury, but Phoenix holds the tie-breaker, which makes Friday’s game all that more important against Seattle.
“Whoever wins the game has the edge, you really don’t have to say much more, especially after we finished that road trip and got embarrassed by them after winning out there early… there’s not much you have to say, ” said head coach Mike Thibault following Thursday’s practice at Verizon Center.
“Both teams will enter with confidence, they won a couple big games on this trip, we won a couple in a row, so it will have the feel of a really important playoff game,” continued Thibault.
Make no mistake, while players and coaches may sometimes tip toe around the fact that any one game has more importance than another, the Mystics certainly know what’s at stake Friday night.
“We don’t need any extra motivation, we know what’s at stake, we put ourselves in this position, with our backs are against the wall, fighting for our playoff lives, so all of us know what’s at stake and we’re going in mentally prepared and we’re ready for it,” said second-year point guard Natasha Cloud.
“This will be like a playoff game, we have a chance to get that tie-breaker, we didn’t do our job with Phoenix, so we need to take care of business in order to continue our season beyond next week,” Cloud stated after Thursday’s practice.
Mystics Coming Off Record-Breaking Night
The Mystics didn’t just win on Wednesday, they shattered records. They scored 118 points, a new franchise-high for points in a game, while making 16 3-pointers, also a franchise record.
Six Mystics finished in double figures, led by Tayler Hill’s 21 points and newcomer Leilani Mitchell’s 20. The team shot 61% from the field and dished out 33 assists on 45 made buckets.
“It was a confidence booster for us, we’ve struggled with consistency on the offensive end all season, so for us to see our shots go down at home, because we’ve struggled at home, is good for us. But last night is last night, we need to prepare and move on, any given day your offense can or cannot be there so we need to get after it on defense on Friday,” said Cloud.
The Storm also had an impressive offensive night, scoring 102 points in a win in New York, the first time they had reached 100 points since 2012.
Both teams have won two straight as they make this push to the postseason.
“They have a lot of good players, when you talk about [Sue] Bird, [Breanna] Stewart, and [Jewell] Loyd, you’re talking about three of the premiere offensive players in the league right now, two Olympians and a future Olympian, and all three of them have been good down the stretch,” said Thibault.
Loyd, Stewart, and former Mystic Crystal Langhorne all scored 20+ points in their win over New York on Wednesday night and this will be a team not only with offensive stars, but with ones who have been playing at a high level.
Cloud discussed how the teams are not only close in the standings, but also in their styles.
“Seattle is a very similar team to us, they are very creative on offense, they have a lot of threats, we need to take care of stuff on the defensive end and try and disrupt some of their key players. It should be an interesting game because our styles are similar. You’ll see an up-tempo game, a lot of ball screens, and a lot of pick and pop, so it should be a good game,” said Cloud.
Thibault noted it wasn’t just the stars to be weary of, but everyone on that Seattle team who knows their role.
“Langhorne’s been really good for them, Mosqueda-Lewis, Clark, Tokashiki…. It will be a bit of a chess match.”
The Mystics played with just nine players on Wednesday and could do so again on Friday as Ivory Latta (knee) and LaToya Sanders (foot) both were held out of practice again on Thursday.
The action tips at 7pm on Friday from Verizon Center.
And if you’re coming to the game, don’t forget to bring diapers to donate!