Three Takeaways: Dallas Wings stun struggling Washington Mystics

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 26: Elena Delle Donne
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 26: Elena Delle Donne /

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Saturday night at the Capital One Arena began with Washington Mystics guard Ivory Latta being awarded the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award from Commissioner Lisa Borders and Staley herself.

It ended with the Mystics losing their second game in a row, falling to the Dallas Wings 83-78.

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The Mystics have already clinched a playoff berth, but came into this game following a rough loss on Friday night to the New York Liberty, that made the fourth seed in the playoffs — and the bye that comes with it — practically a pipe dream. They needed to win this game in order to re-establish some momentum as September draws closer.

But the Wings were the team with much more than momentum on the line — they were fighting for their playoff lives. The Wings came into the game holding onto the eighth and final spot in the postseason, with the Chicago Sky nipping at their heels. Now, after this win, they have a little bit of breathing room.

It was a physical, brutal, and, ugly game filled with questionable calls and not a lot of community spirit, and it leaves the Mystics with more questions than answers headed into the most important part of the season.

The Mystics’ shooting woes continue

When Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Tolliver were added to the Mystics in the offseason, the buzz in D.C. wasn’t about whether the Mystics would be able to score enough points to win games, it was about whether anyone in the W would be able to stop them, especially from beyond the arch.

Well, Saturday was yet another example of just how disappointing their offensive output has been. There were multiple missed layups, dozens of wide-open missed jumpers, and plenty of possessions where it looked like nobody wanted to take a shot.

In the first quarter, the Mystics only shot 31.6 percent and only scored 18 points. While the second quarter was a vast improvement, with 32 dominating points, the Mystics crashed back to earth in the second half, with a combined 28 points over the final 20 minutes of the game. Ouch.

The Mystics are currently third-to-last in the league in field-goal percentage at 41.5 percent, third-to-last in assists, and third-to-last in three-point percentage. Additionally, they’re in the bottom half of the league in points scored and dead last in the league in field goals made per game.

Rebounds and free throws have been bailing them out for much of the season, but if they want to avoid being one-and-done in the playoffs, the Mystics are going to have to figure out how to put some more points on the board.

Emma Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne are finding a rhythm

The bright spot for the Mystics is that their two best players seem to finally be clicking.

Because of injuries and, well, Belgium, Emma Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne have only played together for one-third of the games this season. The two looked a bit out of sync against the Liberty on Friday night, in Delle Donne’s first game back from thumb surgery, but on Saturday they looked like they’d figured it all out.

Delle Donne finished the game with 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Meesseman finished with 22 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots.

They attempted 35 shots between them, and Thibault actually wished they had attempted more because of the success they were having and the match-ups they were creating.

“I felt like Emma and I did great reading each other, and reading the mismatches that were thrown at us today,” Delle Donne told The Summitt after the game.

“It’s amazing playing with a player like that. To know, ‘Hey, you got the small on you, go to work, okay I got the small on me, I’ll get in the paint.’ But we gotta figure out now how to get everyone involved. So, yeah Emma and I will get touches, but how do we get everyone else involved as well so it’s not just the focal point of our offense?”

The Dallas Wings should be feared in the playoffs

The Wings have won two of their last three, and look to be in solid control of the final spot in the playoffs. And that should scare the rest of the WNBA, because this is not a team anyone wants to face, particularly in a one-game shootout.

SKylar Diggins-Smith’s phenomenal season continued on Saturday night, with 20 points, seven assists, and two steals. Karima Christmas-Kelly was the only other player in double digits, with 12 points, but the Wings’ depth was on full display in D.C., with six other players scoring seven or more points.

Glory Johnson, in her return from the controversial one-game suspension, added nine points and 11 boards; Theresa Plaisance had nine points, including a dagger of a three-pointer in the last minute of the game; Allisha Gray notched eight points; while Aerial Powers, Kayla Thornton, and Kaela Davis all added seven points from the bench.

The Wings are an extremely physical team that knows how to get to the line, and on Saturday they got to the line 31 times. This is a team that most expected to be a big playoff threat next season, but they seem to be arriving ahead of schedule.