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Mystics at Sparks final score: Washington runs out of gas late, lose 93-82

Emma Meesseman did her part. But the Sparks just happen to be better at the Mystics’ strengths, so here we are.

Andrew D. Bernstein, NBA/Getty Images

The Mystics lost to Sparks on the road Sunday, 93-82 despite playing them evenly for pretty much all of the first three quarters. However in the fourth quarter, Washington allowed a five-point deficit to balloon to 17 with less than four minutes to go, effectively putting this game out of reach.

The loss drops Washington to 9-11, while the Sparks now have a WNBA-best 18-1 record.

Emma Meesseman had a great game, scoring 24 points. But the Sparks’ three-headed frontcourt monster of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jantel Lavender also had Emma Meesseman-like performances. When that happens, it’s going to be very hard for teams to win games.

The Mystics change up their starting front court

We have been hinting it for some time. But with Stefanie Dolson having somewhat of a down year, we expected that Kia Vaughn would likely get a chance to start over her soon.

That happened today. Though Vaughn didn’t have the best performance statistically (6 points on 3 of 9 shooting), she is a more physical defender than Dolson. And if nothing else, it’s a wake up call for Dolson that no one is entitled to anything.

Anything Emma can do, the Sparks can do better

If there’s any part of Meesseman’s game that people should scrutinize, it’s whether she is willing to take over games when it seems like no one else can. Today, she did that, scoring a season high 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing six assists, and stealing the ball three times. When Meesseman puts up these kinds of performances, the Mystics should be able to pull through with a victory.

Except that the Mystics played the L.A. Sparks today. And Candace Parker out-Meesseman’ed Meesseman. L.A.’s franchise player scored 26 points on 9 of 16 shooting, made 4 of 7 three pointers, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished nine assists. She was sensational today.

But that’s not all. Parker’s frontcourt teammates also put up outstanding numbers.

Nneka Ogwumike added 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists. Jantel Lavender also added another 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting, to go with seven rebounds and three assists.

It’s not just that the three scored a ton of points. They also combined for 19 of L.A.’s first 21 points in the fourth quarter which gave them that 17 point lead in the first place.

You can be quick to point that Meesseman was just 1 of 5 to start that quarter. And even she missed a couple easy bunnies after grabbing offensive rebounds. But at the same time, no one else stepped in, and again, her performance was very good nevertheless.

The Parker-Ogwumike-Carpenter triumvirate dominated this game and stepped up when their backcourt and wing players came up short. More importantly, they also took over the game when it was time to close the deal. Washington had no answer.

The Mystics need more consistent offensive production from everyone besides Meesseman

Unfortunately, Meesseman didn’t get the support Parker did from Ogwumike and Lavender. No starters scored in double figures besides Meesseman. The most consistent player besides Meesseman this season is Tayler Hill. But today, she shot 2 of 13 which was bad to say the least.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt went MIA on offense. Her offensive performance was just offensive. Two shot attempts in 18 minutes? Sure, she’s good defensively, but this game has to be played two ways! Even Natasha Cloud wasn’t looking for her shot enough. And Vaughn’s shot was off as well.

Dolson did score 10 off the bench, and Kahleah Copper added 13, most of them in the 4th quarter when things were going out of hand.

Bottom line: Meesseman is consistent. You know she’ll find a way to score 10 points on a bad day. But for the love of God, the Mystics’ starters — especially those not named Emma or Tayler — need to be more consistent on offense. Yes, Meesseman needs to raise her level of consistency too (she really should be a 20 point per game scorer in my opinion), but this goes on everyone.

Final thoughts

If you read any general women’s basketball site about this game, I’m sure the story line will be that Parker nearly triple-doubled a D.C. team that was feisty but didn’t have talent.

While I will acknowledge that the Mystics still don’t have the talent needed to win a championship right now, I also think that most general women’s basketball sites are also a bit quick to dismiss the Mystics as a bunch of young spare parts waiting to be traded away to the Mercury, Lynx, or Sparks.

The Mystics are building the way we want a lot of professional basketball teams to play. And even though Meesseman rightfully deserved criticism for not being aggressive as her role increased with the team, in the past, she doesn’t deserve that today.