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Keys to the Palace: Delle Donne shows against her old team, Toliver’s slump continues

The Mystics went 2-0 last week, beating the Chicago Sky twice, once at home and once on the road. That puts the Mystics at 3-2 on the season. Though it’s still early and the team is still gelling, it’s worth noting that the pattern so far has been wins against bad teams and losses against good ones.

We have given Keys to the Palace with the Wizards each week during the regular season. We also did so for the Mystics last season. But if you’re reading this for the first time or are wondering what “Keys” are, let’s go through an overview on how these virtual awards are handed out:

Key to the Palace - A player who consistently plays above expectations, given her role. For example, Elena Delle Donne is going to have to do a lot more on the court to get a Key than Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

Guest Pass - A player who plays within the norms of her role. There’s room for variation here because some players have above average but unspectacular weeks while other played below average but weren’t playing poorly.

Lockout - A player who consistently plays below expectations — even when they’re having a bad day.

Make sense? Let’s get to the weekly evals!

Keys to the Palace

Elena Delle Donne

Delle Donne was spectacular against her old team, leading the Mystics in scoring both games. She showcased the unique combination of skills that make her special: Shooting lights out while rebounding and blocking shots.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt

Ruffin-Pratt had a fantastic game in Chicago, with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. She only scored 6 at home, but Ruffin-Pratt doesn’t need to score a lot to make her presence felt. She grabbed another 6 rebounds and had a team-high 5 assists (tied with Kristi Toliver).

Tianna Hawkins

Hawkins filled her role as bench spark superbly this week. Between the two games she scored 24 points and 12 rebounds in 41 minutes of playing time. The Mystics truly have an embarrassment of riches in the post.

Ivory Latta

Latta is in a strange position this year. After being the starting point guard of the Mike Thibault era, she’s lost that spot to Toliver. Between those two, Hill, and Natasha Cloud, there aren’t many guard minutes to go around and due to her height, Latta is arguably the least versatile of the four. She’s averaging her fewest minutes per game since 2009, but this week she made them count. Between the two games she scored 20 points in only 41 minutes of playing time. The embarrassment of riches exists in the backcourt, as well.

Guest Passes

Tayler Hill

Hill had one good game and one bad this week, so we’ll split the difference with a Guest Pass. She had a rough time on the road, shooting just 1-8 from the field for a total of 4 points. But she bounced back at home, exploding for 19 points, plus five rebounds and three assists. Hill’s instinct to attack the basket serves her well when Delle Donne and Meesseman are spacing the floor and pulling the opponent’s rim protectors out of the paint. On the other hand, her usage has been high and her field goal percentage has been ugly - not great on a team with so many other weapons.

Krystal Thomas

Thomas was brought to DC to play defense and be a physical presence on the glass, and she excelled in that role this week. Though her minutes were limited before Emma Meesseman left for Belgium, she started her first game of the season on Friday, she leads the team in rebounding percentage by a mile (grabbing 15 boards in 27 minutes between the two games).

Lockout

Natasha Cloud

Cloud plays hard on defense and has the instinct to move the ball, but the Sky dared her to make them pay with her scoring and she couldn’t: She shot 4-12 from the field (including 1-4 from three) and struggled to manufacture anything at the rim amongst Chicago’s twin towers. She also managed to pick up 7 fouls between the two games, negating some of her defensive impact.

Kristi Toliver

Toliver has yet to find her shot since joining the Mystics, and for a player who relies heavily on scoring to make an impact that hurts. She made just two of her fourteen threes last week, and she shot a horrific 32% from the floor. To her credit, she did lead the team in assists (five in each game). But for a player of Toliver’s caliber, the standards are higher.

Emma Meesseman

Meesseman played in just one game this week before returning to Belgium, and it was not pretty. It’s tough to blame Meesseman, who is a hero for taking a few weeks back with the Mystics when many of her peers would have trained for EuroBasket. Still, she needs to be better than 2-7 from the field and three personal fouls in less than sixteen minutes.

Too little time for an evaluation

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Asia Taylor did not play enough for evaluation.