Four games to watch as the Washington Mystics defend 2019 WNBA title

An overview, games to circle

On Thursday, the WNBA defending champion Washington Mystics released their 2020 schedule. Opening day is Saturday, May 16, and the season concludes on Sunday, September 20, both at home. The schedule expanded from 34 to 36 games as a result of the WNBA’s brand-new collective bargaining agreement, which also increased player salaries and provided for better travel accommodations, among other changes.

Here are four takeaways from the Mystics’ 2020 schedule and four games to circle on your calendar.

  • The unbalanced schedule looks favorable, but it’s hard to say for sure right now. With 36 games in a 12-team league, each team plays eight teams three times and three teams four times. The teams Washington plays four times are Atlanta, New York, and Indiana—all non-playoff teams a season ago. However, the latter two have new head coaches for 2020, and free agency opens on February 1, so the teams’ playing styles and/or rosters could look very different from 2019 by the time training camp starts.
  • The Mystics will want to get off to a good start. They play four of their first five games on the road, but two of those games are against teams that did not make the playoffs in 2019. Tougher stretches potentially loom later in the season, including three games against Chicago in a 10-day span in June; five games in eight days in July, including at Connecticut and at New York on back-to-back days; and the longest road trip of the year (four games out West and one in Dallas) from August 30 to September 8.
  • The Olympic break, which runs from July 13 to August 13, will be a significant variable in the Mystics’ title defense. Elena Delle Donne (United States), Emma Meesseman (Belgium), and Kim Mestdagh (Belgium) will all go for gold, giving the trio little of the rest that most of their peers will receive. The Mystics get a few extra days off on either side of the break, which might help, but like the other 11 teams, they will have to quickly rediscover their rhythm for the second half of the season.
  • There will be lots of weekend fun at the Entertainment and Sports Arena this season. Of the Mystics’ 18 home games, six are on Friday evenings and six are on Sunday afternoons. Last season, the Mystics had more games on Tuesday through Thursday evenings and fewer on Fridays. Weeknight games can present more of a challenge for fans to attend, so this schedule may help the Mystics have consistently louder crowds than if there were more weeknight games.

Games to circle:

May 16 vs. Los Angeles: The Mystics will open the season against the Sparks, who are led by superstar Candace Parker and were the No. 3 seed in last year’s playoffs. Especially with the game being on a Saturday, this should be a raucous atmosphere fitting a matchup of two very talented teams. In addition, according to Mystics owner Ted Leonsis, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will attend the game and present the team with its 2019 championship banner.

May 29 at Seattle: For all of Washington’s dominance last season, the Mystics never got to go head-to-head with a full-strength Storm team. The Storm were the dominant team in 2018, sweeping Washington in the Finals, but stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird missed the entire 2019 season. This game will go a long way toward establishing which team should be considered the favorite in 2020.

June 5 vs. Indiana: Welcome back, Marianne Stanley! The new Indiana head coach had been a Mystics assistant coach since 2010 before being hired away this offseason. She was also the WNBA Coach of the Year in 2002 as the Mystics’ head coach. She is likely to receive a big ovation from the crowd at Entertainment and Sports Arena on June 5 and again on September 13 in the teams’ final regular-season meeting.

September 20 vs. Connecticut: This is the last game of the season, and it comes against Connecticut, the team Washington defeated in an epic WNBA Finals in 2019. Last season, these two teams played all of their regular-season games before July 1, but this year, the series is more spread out, with the other games on June 28 (home) and July 5 (away). Connecticut has a lot of players who are free agents right now, but if the Sun can re-sign most of their key players, it’s not crazy to think a top-two playoff seed could be on the line in this matchup.

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