Three Takeaways: The Los Angeles Sparks dominate the Washington Mystics

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 16: Candace Parker
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 16: Candace Parker /

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two of the top four WNBA teams were playing on Wednesday night, but here was only one real championship contender on the floor at the Capital One Arena, and it certainly was not the home team.

The defending champion Los Angeles Sparks throttled the Washington Mystics on national television, 95-62, and honestly, it didn’t even feel that close.

More from High Post Hoops

The Sparks had powerhouse showings from its starters–Candace Parker led the way with 21 points, seven rebounds, and two blocked shots, while both Nneka Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims had 18 points each. Sims filled out her stat sheet with four steals and seven assists, while Chelsea Gray added 10 points of her own.

Then there were the Mystics, whose only bright spots came from Emma Meesseman’s 20 points and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough’s career-high 16. But even they will want to forget this night quickly, as the Phoenix Mercury come to town on Friday, with Brittney Griner in tow.

Here are some lessons from a rough night for the Mystics.

Elena Delle Donne, come back soon

Withouth Elena Delle Donne, the Mystics have managed to win five of their last six games, which is honestly pretty impressive. But this game was a clear indicator that Mike Thibault’s team has no shot against elite competition without a healthy Delle Donne.

Krystal Thomas, who has been phenomenal all season, needed the back-up desperately against talents like Parker and Ogwumike. She only had four points and five rebounds on the night, by far her worst night in months.

Meesseman was able to help some with seven boards, but she was not nearly aggressive enough in the second half to make a real dent. Essentially, the Sparks could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and the Mystics had no answers. They need their MVP back, stat.

The Mystics bench let the team down

Depth is usually a strength for the Mystics; Natasha Cloud and Ivory Latta usually bring a bolt of energy off the bench, which is hard to handle combined with Allison HIghtower and Tianna Hawkins’ aggressiveness.

But on Wednesday, their bench play was abysmal.

The bench only scored nine points total on the night. Cloud and Latta were both shut out completely, something that hardly every happens, and Hightower and Hawkins only added four points each.

Hawkins, who is usually a big help on the boards, only contributed two rebounds on the night. The Mystics, one of the best rebounding teams in the league, were outrebounded 33-23, and outscored in the paint 52-22. That is not going to cut it going forward — the bench has to be able to bail out the starters on bad night; on this night, they simply sunk the team further down the hole.

The Sparks are not kidding around

Coming into Wednesday night, the Sparks had lost two of their last three, and there were murmurs — yes, even here at The Summitt — that the Connecticut Sun might be in position to snatch the No. 2 spot in the playoffs away from the Sparks and throw the postseason into disarray.

Well, I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but it is just hard to see that happening.

The most dangerous thing about the Sparks is their veteran ability to step up and play their best basketball when it matters the most. They knew that the Sun were charging, and that they had a let-down, run-out-of-gas game agains the New York Liberty following an intense win over the Minnesota Lynx last weekend. They knew they needed to get momentum back.

So, they came out and shot 61.5 percent from the field, 60 percent from beyond the arch, 92.3 percent from the free-throw line, and forced 20 turnovers in an all-around dominant performance against the fourth-best team in the league. It doesn’t get more no-nonsense than that.