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Mystics vs. Sky preview: Washington goes for first home win of the season

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The (2-4) Washington Mystics take on the equally unimpressive (2-4) Chicago Sky in the first of a home-and-home. This is a possible playoff match-up factoring in last season. And there are some measurable improvements for the home team.

Game Info

When: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 7 p.m., EST.

Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

TV/Online: WNBA League Pass, Monumental Sports Network (if you live within 100 miles of Washington), THE U TOO.

Injury Report

NONE. But LaToya Sanders is fulfilling her overseas commitments for the Turkish national team.

Keys to the Game

Hit the ground running early against an out-of-form Chicago team

Both of these Eastern Conference teams have started out below expectations. You would think that having last year's MVP Elena Delle Donne would instantly guarantee the Sky would get out of the gate quickly. But that has not been the case. EDD missed the first game of the season with illness and the Sky beat the Sun anyway. Since then, they have managed one more 5 point win. Courtney Vandersloot has been out a couple games from an ankle sprain, but should see minutes this game.

If this was a non-Olympic year, everyone would be wrapping up pre-season right now and getting ready to start the official season like they did last year, on June 5th. For all intents and purposes, that is exactly what May has been for the Mystics, a time for getting injuries and adjustments out of the way and finding chemistry with the starters and bench, particularly because some starters missed training camp entirely.

The numbers

So far, the Mystics are not excelling on paper compared to the other 11 teams in the Association, but we have the same number of wins as our opponent.

Ranking in WNBA (12 teams)
Last Game
Mystics 2-4 Sky 2-4
[Offense]
Points/Poss 9 4
Points off Tos 12 10
Points in Paint 7 6
2nd Chance Pts 9 2
Fast Brk Points 12 8
Bench Scoring 10 2
Rebound % 4 1
[Defense]
OPP Pts/TOs 9 4
OPP Pts/Poss 12 10
OPP 2nd Cha Pts 6 10
OPP Pts/Paint 9 2
OPP FB Pts 5 12
Mystics 2-4 Sky 2-4
[Last 2 Games Stats] [L] [W] [W] [L]
OFF Rbds 11 13 8 9
Assists 11 6 28 19
Steals 3 6 7 4
Turns 6 16 13 15
BS 0 5 6 * 4
PF 22 23 24 22

So the fact is, we are looking at two polar opposites. Clearly the Sky are executing on paper. But they are not finishing games, whereas the Mystics aren't executing anything but rebounds, and they have just gritted out two wins. The number of assists that the Sky have had in the last two games absolutely puts D.C. to shame. Twenty-eight is a ton of assists for anyone, though!

The Mystics' rebounding has been consistent and has kept them in games, especially their offensive rebounding. The Sky are actually first in the Association in rebounding percentage and the Mystics are fourth, but I like that they are producing on the glass.

The Mystics are also shooting a WNBA-leading 35 percent from three but are eighth in attempts. This sounds a lot like Randy Wittman's Wizards ... at least for now.

Frontcourt comparisons

I find this interesting from last year. The Sky and the Mystics started the 2015 season in opposite fashions. And yet, they finished the same way. Here are the comparisons of the front court production for both teams in June and September, and who did the heavy lifting. Here is the Mystics below.

Here is the Sky's frontcourt during the same two months, below.

The W can be a cruel, cruel place even for a superstar like Delle Donne. Imagine if you will, what D.C. would do with a star like her, and started the season 2-4. Of the 'Three to See' from the 2013 draft class, the only team with a non-losing record is Skylar Diggins' Dallas Wings, and she has not played more than 12 minutes in a game. It takes more than a big name to win a championship or even get a win in the WNBA.

When things are going right for the Mystics it looks a lot like this:

A video posted by Elle (@ellelovesbb_) on

Washington has had leads over every team they have played, so it isn't a 'talent' issue to me. It is simply doing a better job on defense, which should improve with Natasha Cloud and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt back in the fold.

Special guests will be in attendance

WNBA President Lisa Borders will be at the game. She also gave an interview to CSN Mid Atlantic's Rob Carlin:

Who Wins?

Most likely, it will be Chicago, but all hope isn't lost.

Last year D.C. beat Chicago early in the season, and then lost to them in a home-and-home situation just like this one, much later in the season BY TWO in BOTH games. So clearly, winnable. Superstar-less or not, the Mystics were playing really good team ball.

I have to point out that there has been a noticeable change in the dynamic and ball handling ability with the loss of Kara Lawson, who is fulfilling broadcasting duties. Last year at this time, she and the The Washington Posts were gearing up for an effective All-Star campaign. And a third straight playoff berth.

This year the Mystics have Tayler Hill picking up the scoring slack for Lawson, and Bria Hartley is chipping in with assists. But they need someone who can do both effectively. Yes, Hill is killing free throws, but if she wasn't, her scoring average would be middling at best. Someone has to do an above average job at TWO things. Meesseman is holding down scoring, rebounding, and blocks. Copper is excelling in spunk and steal/rebounds.

Finally, Dolson must show up.

She needs a 24 point and 11 rebound game somewhere. Last year, on June 28, we played the Sky for the first time and won 86-71. Meesseman had 20 points, Latta 16, Hill 16 and Dolson had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

If she does not get super aggressive, the Mystics won't get their first home win of the season tonight.