WASHINGTON, D.C. — On a rainy day in the nation’s capital, the Washington Mystics (5-3) looked like fish out of water against the Connecticut Sun (5-0), and lost their second game in a row, 88-64.
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It was the Mystics’ first home loss of the season.
The Sun got off to a quick 11-2 start, and never took their foot off the gas. Every time the Mystics made a run and made it a 1-2 possession game, the Sun would score 5-10 points in a flash. That’s why the Sun are currently the best team in the WNBA — I mean, they’re so good they have Jonquel Jones coming off of the bench. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Curt Miller and company. Jasmine Thomas led everyone with 25 points, four boards and three assists. Chiney Ogwumike (11 pts, 9 reb, 3 stls), Alyssa Thomas (10 pts, 6 reb, 4 asst) and Alex Bentley (15 pts, 3 reb) were the other scorers in double digits.
The Mystics will obviously want to put all memories this game and their similarly meek performance against the Las Vegas Aces in Nevada on Friday night in the trash can quickly, and figure out how to get back to the athletic, aggressive, and multi-dimensional team that rocketed out to a 5-1 start on the season.
While it would be easy to simply blame this loss on the fact that it was their fourth game in four states in six days, and on the ongoing absence of superstar Elena Delle Donne due to illness, the truth is, with the depth of talent on the Mystics’ roster, even when down to a 10-woman rotation, performances like this one on Sunday are simply inexcusable.
The lone bright spot in this game was the play of rookie Ariel Atkins, who led the team in scoring with 14 points and notched her fifth-straight game with 10+ points. Tianna Hawkins and Mo Currie were the only other Mystics in double digits, with 10 points each.
Where did Kristi Toliver go? As good as Toliver is, she has games where she completely disappears, and that simply can’t happen against good teams and when Delle Donne isn’t playing. She scored 19 in the Mystics’ upset win over the Lynx last Sunday, 20 in the close loss to Seattle on Tuesday, and 30 in the win over the Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday. Then, on Friday’s loss to the Aces she was 0-for-4 for three points, and on Sunday she was 2-for-4 for six points. It’s unreasonable to expect her to carry the team with 30 points every time, but it’s a huge problem if she’s not taking at least 10 shots a game, and if she doesn’t make a single three-pointer. Even when Delle Donne gets back, Toliver has to remain aggressive, even when her shot isn’t falling.
Elena Delle Donne will likely miss at least one more game. There’s no official word on the nature of her illness, and whether it’s lyme disease related, but head coach Mike Thibault said in press after the game that he doubts she will be ready to play against Minnesota on Thursday, and he expects it to be another 7-10 days until she’s back in action. That does mean there’s a good chance she’s back by next Wednesday, when the Mystics meet the Sun in Connecticut to try and get some revenge.
Natasha Cloud is playing with kidney stones. Yes, you read that right. Cloud has dealt with kidney stones before, so when she started to feel pain in her stomach before the game against the Minnesota Lynx last Sunday, she knew exactly what it was. Still, she played in that game against the Lynx and had 14 points and 9 assists off the bench. When the game was over, she immediately went to the emergency room and spent the next 3 days at the hospital in excruciating pain. She’s figured out how to manage the pain for now, and after staying in D.C. during the road trip this last week, she rejoined the team on Sunday. But the stones still haven’t passed. It’s a waiting game. A very, very painful waiting game. Never, ever question Cloud’s toughness.
Tayler Hill is looking good in warm-ups. It’s been nearly a year since Tayler Hill tore her ACL, but the guard is expected to get back into the starting lineup sometime later this month. She joins the team for warm-ups before games, and every day looks more comfortable and versatile out there. The team really misses her, especially her ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls, and I predict that her return to the lineup will provide a big spark to the theam.
The Sun dominated the boards, mainly thanks to Courtney Williams. When your team has Jonquel Jones and Chiney Ogqwumike, there aren’t supposed to be a lot of rebounds left up for grabs, but Williams had 10 rebounds on Sunday, including eight in the first half, which tied a franchise record set by Tina Charles. The Mystics had nobody in double digits in rebounds, and got outrebounded 45-31 on the day. Not a recipe for success.
The schedule gets easier for the Mystics, but the opponents don’t. Thankfully for the Mystics, their toughest road schedule is in the rear-view mirror, and they only have three games over the next two weeks, with two of those at home. However, their next three games are against the desperate Lynx (2-5), the Sun, and the Los Angeles Sparks (4-1). The hope is the next couple of weeks will allow the team to implement new schemes in practice, rest their legs, and get everyone healthy.