In the opening game of the season, the Washington Mystics fell 87-76 to last year's Eastern Conference champions, the New York Liberty. Thanks to a high-octane first quarter things were close until the middle of the third quarter, when the Liberty began to take control of the ballgame. But bad passing, inability to guard the paint, and some late-game missed free throws ultimately sunk the Mystics.
The Good: Bria Hartley and Tayler Hill look ready to take over the backcourt
One of the major unanswered questions for the Mystics right now is who will man the backcourt. Particularly with Ivory Latta missing the beginning of the season, both the starting point guard and shooting guard spots are up for grabs. Natasha Cloud and Tayler Hill got the start, but it was Hill and combo guard Bria Hartley who kept the Mystics in the game.
Hill led the charge early, crossing it over like nobody’s business and draining threes (4-8 on the night). Hartley, who missed the preseason, struggled a bit early but kept hope alive with clutch bucket after clutch bucket (including a half court buzzer beater) as New York began to pull away. Hill finished the night with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Hartley finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. No other Mystics player scored in double digits.
The Bad: The Mystics played hot potato with the ball
The worst offender? Emma Meesseman. The 2015 WNBA All-Star and 2016 Euroleague champion looked uncomfortable all night, shooting just 1-7 from the floor and giving up good shots for worse shots all night. It's not good to judge too much from one game, but Meesseman is going to need to find a way to be aggressive if she is going to grow into the Mystics next franchise player.
It wasn’t just Meesseman. The whole team seemed eager to pass, but unfortunately those passes were not crisp or productive. The Mystics totaled 13 turnovers (while forcing only 7) but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Sloppy passes and fumbled catches allowed the Liberty’s athletic guards and wings to recover and reset their defense comfortably, while the Mystics were forced to foist contested jumpers late in the shot clock. Get well soon, Ivory Latta.
The Ugly: The Mystics could not stop Tina Charles
Stefanie Dolson and Kia Vaughn aren’t exactly defensive slouches in the post, but Tina Charles refused to be stopped. The former MVP scored 24 points, grabbed 11 boards and dished 4 assists as Washington sent help defenders to try to stop her in the post.