Well, that was ugly. The Mystics were always going to be underdogs if they made it to the finals, but tonight they didn’t look like they belonged in the same league as the Storm in Game 1 on Friday night. Seattle came out strong and Washington had no counterpunch. The Storm won 89-76, lead by Jewell Loyd’s efficient 23 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
Sloppiness defined the first half, lack of energy defined the second
The Thibault-era Washington Mystics have been defined by slow, methodical play. They do not turn the ball over. They patiently work the floor until they find a favorable matchup for Elena Delle Donne, or an open three for one of their wings, or a layup for a cutter taking advantage of the extra defensive attention on Delle Donne. If all else fails, Toliver was there to be their cheat code.
None of that worked tonight. The Storm’s lightning-fast organized chaos had the Mystics looking uncomfortable from the start. The typically meticulous Mystics turned the ball over on 21 percent of their first half possessions. Shots would not fall for Delle Donne or Toliver. Every time they went to the rim, Breanna Stewart or Natasha Howard were waiting, and Washington could not make enough jump shots to convince them to move further out.
In the second half, the Mystics’ defense wilted. Jewell Loyd (the Storm’s third, often under-appreciated star) seemed to be everywhere at once, hitting a turnaround off the dribble three on one possession, and out-leaping everyone for a rebound on the next. Stewart found herself wide open under the basket. Sue Bird put on a passing clinic, finishing with a game-high 7 assists.
The bench mob of Miysha Hines-Allen, Powers, and Ruffin-Pratt (surrounded by various shooters) did make Seattle work when they came in at the end of the first and third quarters. But Storm Coach Dan Hughes took no risks; he put his starters back in to maintain the Storm’s approximately 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.
- Kristi Toliver had another exceptionally poor night, scoring 5 points on 11 shots. She also had some of the team’s most egregious first half turnovers.
- Elena Delle Donne also struggled, scoring 10 points on 11 shots. Her jumper looked short to start the night, and her bone bruise clearly limited her mobility on defense.
- Ariel Atkins was once again a shining bright spot for the Mystics. Her playing time was limited in the first half with two early fouls, but she finished the game with a team-high 23 points, shooting 10-14 from the field. When the rest of the team look rattled, Atkins found ways to put the ball in the hoop.
Next Game: The Mystics will try to even the series at Key Arena on Sunday, September 9 at 3:30 pm on ABC.