Mike Thibault’s 300th career win as a coach was far from his most glamorous as a coach—his star player was limited to 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, and the team as a whole went 1-of-16 on threes—but he got the job done as the Mystics defeated the Sparks 83-74 on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams struggled from deep throughout the game, combining to only make 16.6 percent of their shots from downtown, which forced both teams to compensate in different ways. The Sparks turned to inside-out attack Chelsea Gray and Nneka Ogwumike, who combined for 45 points on 26 shots, while the Mystics leaned on their guards, Kristi Toliver and Natasha Cloud, who combined to go 18-of-20 from the free throw line.
The Mystics took over sole possession of third place in the WNBA standings thanks to the win and put themselves in a good position for their third and final meeting next month. The winner of their August 17 game in Washington will claim the head-to-head tiebreaker, which could be crucial in determining who gets a bye and who doesn’t.
- What a slugfest. Since neither team could get the outside shot going, they both had to take a lot of tough shots to get points, but both sides were up to the task. Thankfully, the Mystics’ shot creators were just a little better in this one, and that proved to be the difference.
- Ariel Atkins continues to amaze. She only finished with 11 points, but scored 9 of them in the first quarter when the team needed an early spark. Even though she cooled off afterwards, her early scoring helped give Toliver and Cloud the space they needed to attack later in the game and carry it home.
- The Mystics return to action on Sunday against the Storm, and frankly, it’s shaping up to be a schedule loss. Washington looked jet-lagged in this one and you have to think that will only be worse on the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday. Plus, Toliver and Delle Donne both played over 36 minutes to secure the win against the Sparks. If they don’t get some big contributions from their bench, it could get out of hand quickly.
- Hopefully Thibault packed an extra suit, because it might be hard to get a dry cleaner before Sunday’s game: