After a pair of losses to the Chicago Sky, the Mystics currently sit next-to-last in the East, with a 2-6 record and a three-game losing streak. They travel to Atlanta on Sunday to try to redeem themselves against the 6-1 Atlanta Dream.
After having a down season in 2015, where they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, the Dream have re-tooled their roster. Olympian forward Angel McCoughtry is still the centerpiece, but the front court has gotten younger, with second year pro Elizabeth Williams replacing Erika de Souza at center, and combo guard Layshia Clarendon taking over the point guard duties.
Where: Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA.
When: Sunday, June 5 at 3:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Streaming: WNBA League Pass
Both teams should have their full rosters available.
Keys to the Game
Don't let Angel McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes live at the free throw line
Atlanta is both fast and athletic. They lead the league in pace (83.9) and free throw rate (47.9). But while they have steamrolled their competition thus far, they are not without vulnerabilities.
Franchise star Angel McCoughtry is a player with many of the strengths of Pacers forward Paul George, but she also the weaknesses of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. At her best, she is a lock-down perimeter defender who can dominate offensively at both small forward and power forward. There are very few defenders who can handle her one-on-one when she gets in the paint, and she can use the havoc she creates to set up her teammates. At her worst, she is overly ball-dominant, inefficient, and a gambler defensively.
McCoughtry is joined on the wing by Tiffany Hayes, whose aggressive style of play gets her to the free throw line often. Hayes is also a capable spot-up shooter from three. To win this game, the Mystics will need to keep McCoughtry and Hayes out of the paint without fouling, and try to force the more offensively inconsistent Williams, Clarendon, and power forward Sancho Lyttle to beat them.
They will also need to take care of the ball: While the Mystics are last in the league in assist/turnover ratio, the Dream are second-to-last. McCoughtry, Hayes, and Clarendon are all high-turnover players, and no one on the Dream is currently averaging more than 2.4 assists per game.
Unclog the paint
On offense, the Mystics will need to use their stretch posts to drag Williams and Lyttle away from the rim. Atlanta is third in the league in both block and rebound percentage. Williams, in particular, is a great shot blocker, but if Stefanie Dolson can force Williams to respect her out on the perimeter the Mystics' guards (I'm looking at you, Tayler Hill) should be able to get clean looks at the rim and sneak in for rebounds.
Emma Meesseman will likely find herself matched up with Lyttle for the majority of the game, and it is imperative that she stays aggressive. Lyttle is perhaps one of the best defenders of stretch-posts in the league, but she is also foul-prone. If Meesseman can get Lyttle off the floor with early foul trouble, the Dream won't have anyone else who can stop her.