Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 14: Mystics are going dancing

Mystics rally from midseason woes to clinch the 8-seed

No one knows how the Mystics did it. Everybody knows Mike Thibault is a genius, but who knew he had this in his back pocket???

The Washington Mystics are in the playoffs, and alongside the coaching of Thibault, it’s predominantly been on the back of Mysiha “Most Improved” Hines-Allen.

Hines-Allen carried the Mystics in a must-win game over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday with an absurd 30 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals statline. She followed it up with 16 points and 10 boards in a playoff-clinching win over the Atlanta Dream. If those numbers don’t scream All-WNBA, I don’t know what does. Her head coach doesn’t know either.

“I think the conversation should change to whether she should be considered as an all-league player this summer,” Thibault said of Hines-Allen after their win on Thursday. “And I’m dead serious about that because she has stepped up against the biggest and best teams and matched them toe to toe and outplayed a bunch of them, and I’m really proud of what she did tonight.”

It’s playoff time for the defending champions. They’ll have a date with Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in a single-game elimination on Tuesday. Everybody knows that Diana Taurasi does not lose elimination games (13-1 all-time). Does Thibault have one more trick up his sleeve? Probably not. But it’s nice to dream.

At the top of the standings, the indomitable Seattle Storm finally look, well, domitable. And with the Las Vegas Aces win over the Storm on Sunday, A’ja Wilson has probably locked up the MVP award.

The Storm-Aces game was likely a finals preview, but with a Storm shakeup, as the team was missing Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. That should be a consolation for Seattle, who lost to the Aces 86-84.

The gap between the Storm and Aces is a small one, and the difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 seed is effectively obsolete this year, as there is no true home-court advantage (even if The Next’s Howard Megdal would tell you otherwise). The second-seeded Storm will have a slightly tougher semi-final opponent now, but they felt comfortable giving Bird and Stewart well-deserved rest.

Despite finishing with the No. 2 seed, the Storm ended the season with the league’s best offensive rating (by a slim margin) and the best defensive rating (by a wide margin). One has to think, if Breanna Stewart is at 100%, and Sue Bird can hit the floor, the Storm are title favorites.

The Aces brought more than one team down in the standings in the home stretch, securing an 84-70 win over the Sparks that bumped LA down to the three-seed and prevented the team from securing a double-round bye. The Aces dominated the Sparks even as A’ja Wilson sat on the bench, which effectively ended LA’s chance of making a late run.

The Sparks need Sydney Wiese and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, far-and-away the team’s best shooters, to play key rotation minutes in the playoffs. If they can heal by game time, Candace Parker and Co. could make a Finals run.

And how about the Connecticut Sun, man. Who would’ve thought they would make the playoffs? Starting 0-5? No Jonquel Jones? I mean, you know the storyline by now. No problem!

But it’s still incredible that they’re finally, really, here. The Sun will face the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday in a single-elimination game. Connecticut has shocked teams all year. Can they do it again?

This right here is a must-read from the staff of The Next, as they broke down their seven most absurd takes ahead of the playoffs. Oh yeah, they also discussed award-winners, which is pretty important too. (Also! Don’t miss out on the end of the article!)

While the Dallas Wings just missed out on the playoffs, they can’t be too disappointed with Arike Ogunbowale’s growth this season. The second-year star averaged 21.9(!) points per game this year and put up electrifying performances game-after-game, finishing as the league’s best crunch-time scorer.

The Memphis Grizzlies hired MIT women’s basketball head coach Sonia Raman as an assistant on Taylor Jenkins’ staff. Raman is one of 10 women working as an assistant coach in the NBA (low, right!) and will join the team after two tournament appearances and a 91-45 record over her final five years.

The Aces Kelsey Plum, meanwhile, headed back to the NCAA to join Arkansas as a graduate assistant. Plum sat out this season to rehab from an Achilles injury and will be a welcome addition to the staff (especially to head coach Chantel Osahor, who could not stop raving about her).

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