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Mystics vs. Storm final score: 3 things we learned in Washington’s close 81-76 loss

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This loss really hurts.

Emma Meesseman of the Washington Mystics posts up on Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm Ned Dishman, NBA/Getty Images

The Washington Mystics (12-18) lost 81-76 to the Seattle Storm (14-17) on Friday. The Mystics’ loss snapped a two game win streak while the Storm have now won four games in a row, tied for the longest current winning streak in the league.

The Mystics’ entire starting lineup scored in double figures which is nice, but the Storm’s two Team USA Olympians — Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart — scored 17 points each, often at the right moments to give them the W.

The loss is a blow to Washington’s playoff chances. However, the Mystics remain in 9th place in the WNBA standings while the Storm have a firmer grasp on 7th place with this win.

Let’s get to some takeaways from this contest.

The Storm prevented themselves from turning this game to another blowout — yet the Mystics didn’t have the firepower to take advantage of it

The Mystics lost this game by a narrow margin. But the Storm shot 54.5 percent for the game while the Mystics shot just 38.4 percent. They also rebounded the Mystics 36-26. Usually, that means that the Storm would run the Mystics out of Verizon Center like on July 15.

However, they turned the ball over 17 times which turned into 26 Mystics points. Furthermore, five of those turnovers came from traveling calls (Crystal Langhorne had two, Noelle Quinn, Ramu Tokashiki, and Bird had one). The Mystics also happened to score after every Seattle travel call which helped keep this game close. And it allowed the Mystics to lead by 12 with 4:42 left in the third quarter.

But ultimately, the Mystics didn’t have the overall shooting efficiency to keep up with Seattle, and Tokashiki’s fourth quarter was huge as she scored seven points on 3 of 4 shooting and grabbed three rebounds to help give Seattle secure the victory.

I’m sure the Storm will take the W either way. But they are probably quite disappointed with some of the unforced turnovers. And to be honest, they should have blown the Mystics out tonight given how well their shooting and rebounding was compared to Washington’s.

Emma Meesseman kept Washington in the game because of her clutch defense

Sometimes, I just don’t know how she does it. Meesseman forced two consecutive Storm turnovers in the clutch, only to see Hill fail to convert on the next play.

But Meesseman forced Langhorne to commit a shot clock violation in 57.1 seconds left when the Styx were down 79-76. After that, Hill missed a long three point shot which Seattle recovered. But on the Storm’s next possession, Meesseman and the rest of the team forced Langhorne to commit another shot clock turnover with 8.8 seconds left. Again, the score remained the same.

Hill essentially played iso ball in the next possession and bricked a second straight long three which was extremely frustrating to see since Leilani Mitchell was also out there, and Meesseman could also shoot threes of her own. It was a case of hero-ball in my opinion. Maybe the last play was supposed to be an iso for Hill, but either way, it didn’t go in.

Meesseman will probably never give herself enough credit for her contributions in this match. But her defensive play in the clutch on two straight defensive possessions gave the Mystics a shot at overtime if nothing else. You won’t see her get anything in the stat sheet for forcing turnovers, but that’s a prime example of doing the “little things” that often don’t get enough credit.

A Meesseman vs. Stewart matchup will be intriguing to see for years to come

In the preview, I focused a bit on the storyline of Meesseman against Langhorne, and for good reason. Langhorne held Meesseman’s starting position for several seasons in Washington until she was traded to Seattle. But the more interesting match was seeing Meesseman defending Stewart for most of the first half. Stewart scored seven points in the first half, but she also had to work for them. She shot 2 of 6 in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, Meesseman was not defending Stewart most of the time, which allowed her to score 10 points which included two three pointers in a short period of time. Going forward in Storm games, the Styx will need to keep Meesseman on Stewart throughout the game which should keep her in check.

The convenient storyline here is that Stewart and Bird played like superstars and the hapless Mystics had no answer for them. And to be fair, that is true to a point. Like I said earlier, the Storm should have soundly defated the Mystics and were beating themselves with unforced turnovers.

But with this game going the way it was, if Meesseman was on Stewart the whole time, I’m not as sure if that Stewart would have been able to turn the jets on at the time she did. It’s going to be a “what if” that I’ll be thinking about for sometime.