The Washington Mystics started their season on the right foot this past weekend as they defeated the Connecticut Sun, 73-68 on the road last Friday and followed that with a 67-62 win at home over the New York Liberty last Saturday. The end result is that the Mystics are leading the Eastern Conference standings with a 2-0 record after two gritty wins.
Here are four of the things we learned over the weekend.
1. The Mystics are #Relentless on defense, even when they are down two starters
In each of their two games last weekend, the Mystics held their opponents to sub 40 percent shooting from the field. Their effective field goal percentage defense has also been nothing short of outstanding as this figure also remained below 40 percent for both games. This is due to the fact that opponents only shot 6 of 28 from the three-point line, only a rate of 21 percent.
Here are the Four Factors numbers from their Friday win against the Connecticut Sun:
And their Four Factors numbers from their Saturday win against the New York Liberty:
What makes this defensive performance even more notable is that they were able to win both games yet maintain this type of a performance without starting center Kia Vaughn who sat out due to a hip flexor and starting guard Bria Hartley who sat out due to a stress fracture in her right foot, according to Gene Wang of the Washington Post. That said, it's possible that both may return as soon as this Friday.
This level of defensive intensity also shows just how deep the Mystics are, even if they aren't the most star-studded team at the top of the roster. I'll admit that I don't seem to appreciate that enough when it comes to building a top-level team. Sophomore center Stefanie Dolson mentioned in a postgame interview on Monumental Network, which is embedded above.
2. The Mystics' veteran backcourt of Ivory Latta and Kara Lawson step up in clutch moments to secure victories
While Hartley was out over the weekend, long-time WNBA veteran (and ESPN basketball analyst) Kara Lawson started in her place alongside two-time All-Star Ivory Latta. They are no House of Guards, but they have both played key roles to close out each of the Mystics' weekend victories.
On Friday, Latta shot 6 of 6 from the free throw line and scored all but two of the Mystics' points in the last three minutes in their win over Connecticut. And on Saturday, Lawson scored seven of the Mystics' final 11 points in the last five minutes to give them the win. Without their contributions, we could have very well seen this team start out 0-2 when I could have written a much different take on how things are going.
3. Three-point shooting efficiency is a concern
The Mystics have attempted quite a few three-pointers in their first two games but have only shot a combined 10-of-40 from deep. Some may wonder if the Mystics should shoot fewer three-pointers as a result. But given that this team is one of the more analytic-friendly ones in the league, I don't find this particularly likely because of the need for player spacing. Also, there's a lot of good shooters on the team, so they'll get on a hot streak as the season goes on.
Also, remember that the Mystics' shooting slump overall from the Four Factors was just two games. So there's nothing to worry about just yet if you're GM/Head Coach Mike Thibault.
4. Stefanie Dolson is showing promise, but inconsistency while starting for Kia Vaughn
With Vaughn sitting out this past weekend, it allowed Dolson to start in her place. She scored 18 points and 12 rebounds on Friday, but she also followed that up with a 6 point and 5 rebound performance against the Liberty where she also shot 3 of 10 from the field. Her Saturday performance was mediocre statistically, but at the same time, it's good to see that she is playing minutes and is a solid defensive presence for the team.
BF's Mystics Player for Week 1 (June 5 to June 7): Emma Meesseman
There have been many players who contributed positively to the Mystics' undefeated weekend, but our vote goes to Emma Meesseman.
On Friday, Meesseman only scored eight points, but she did contributed in other areas as she grabbed seven rebounds, got two assists, and blocked three shots. On Saturday, Meesseman led all Washington scorers by scoring 16 points, and she also grabbed nine more rebounds and dished three assists.
Her game is not flashy, but Meesseman is a two-way player who can impact a game in many ways. And since she started her career in 2013 as a 20-year old second round pick, she is now 22 and is the same age as most rookies. Thibault even believes that she could have been the first pick of this year's WNBA Draft if she decided to go to the league now instead of two years ago.
If there's one thing that I want Meesseman to work on, it is that she needs to be more aggressive, especially on offense. The instincts and skills are there for her to be an All-Star. But does she have the will to be one, perhaps even this year?
Key question from the weekend: Can the Mystics be the number one team in the East?
It's too early right now, especially because we didn't see any rate of sustained offensive success in the regular season. But let's see how they do against some other top teams like the Chicago Sky or some of the top Western Conference teams before jumping on the bandwagon that this team is about to have an Atlanta Hawks-like run.
To me, the more important part about the Mystics' success is to see who their main contributors are to their games. Eight players out of the 12-man roster are rookies, sophomores, and third-year players, and their play is more important than winning itself. If the younger players are leading the team to victory, then that's something to be excited about for the future.
So far, the younger players are playing the bulk of the minutes, especially in the frontcourt, and that's a good thing. We'll see how the backcourt shapes out once Hartley returns from her injury.
Mystics games this week (June 8 to June 16)
The Mystics play two games over the next seven days through June 16. They will play Friday against the Atlanta Dream on Friday at home on Friday, at 7 p.m. Then, they will play on Sunday, June 16 against the New York Liberty on the road at 6 p.m.
We've been asked about how you can watch games on television or online, so I'll tell you once more. If you live within 100 miles of D.C., you can watch the home games at Verizon Center on Monumental Network online. Otherwise, you can watch on WNBA LiveAccess, which is the equivalent of NBA League Pass' online subscription. It will cost you $15 to subscribe though there may be a discount code where you can save a couple bucks or so.
Since the Mystics have already played both teams, whether in the preseason or just this past weekend, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Mystics start the season with a 4-0 record.