The Washington Mystics began the 2020 WNBA season with uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ultimately, they had a promising season of ups and downs and eventually, a disappointing defeat. A buzzer-beating shot from a former Mystic sent Washington home and ended their season in the first round of the playoffs...yup the playoffs. How did Washington get to this point? Why’d their season end a lot earlier than expected with a not so exciting result?
Well let’s evaluate the 2020 Mystics team and their season overall season.
Coming off a high after winning the 2019 WNBA championship, the Mystics were in route to remaining the favorites for 2020 even with a few additions and losses. During the offseason Washington lost Kristi Toliver to free agency and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough in a three-team trade where the Mystics acquired Tina Charles from the New York Liberty. With the addition of Charles, Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman re-signing, it was without question Washington was the frontrunners to win it all again.
And then COVID-19 happened.
Players began opting out for health reasons and to even continue the fight for social justice such as LaToya Sanders, Tina Charles and Natasha Cloud. Delle Donne was denied medical exemption and sat out the entire season tending to her back injury. And with Toliver going to the Sparks, Ariel Atkins was the only returning starter for the 2020 season.
The 2020 WNBA season in a nutshell
Washington started off the season 3-0 behind a starting lineup of Myisha Hines-Allen, Atkins, Aerial Powers, Leilani Mitchell and Emma Meesseman. The Mystics proceeded to crush the Indiana Fever 101-76, Connecticut Sun 94-89 and the Seattle Storm 89-71. It all seemed to good to be true since the reserves were now in the starting lineup and Washington’s bench didn’t seem as “mob-ish” as it used to be.
And then reality plus injuries hit causing them to go on a seven-game losing streak including a questionable and embarrassing loss to the at the time winless New York Liberty. At that point playoff hopes for the defending champs seemed a bit far fetched having only three wins and seven losses. With only a 22-game season, Washington was in a bind halfway with more losses than wins. After winning one game to break the losing streak, the Mystics lost another five straight followed by a win then another loss.
With four games remaining in the season, Washington sat at 5-13 not too far from the eighth and final spot in the playoffs shockingly. There was some light at the end of this dreary tunnel. And that light was playoff contention.
Washington finished the season on a four-game winning streak defeating Minnesota, Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. A playoff scenario was in effect for the Mystics, Dream and the Dallas Wings. Being as though the Wings held the tie-break over the Mystics, Washington needed to win against the Dream, which they did, to take the final playoff spot.
Although Dallas won their last game, Washington had the overall better record at 9-13. And as for Atlanta, the scenario for them was a little more complex as they needed Washington and the Wings to lose. Losing to Washington sealed their fate.
Finishing as a shocking eighth seed, the Mystics were to face the Phoenix Mercury whom they hadn’t beat in the regular season, Washington came out hot, but then lost momentum causing Phoenix to close in with seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Mercury fouled Mitchell as Washington was leading 83-82. Mitchell got to the line and missed the first free-throw then made the second putting their lead to 84-82. Phoenix pushed down the court and found Shey Peddy in the corner for the game-winning three-point shot that ended the Mystics playoff run.
Heartbreaking enough it didn’t help that Washington waived Peddy a month before and she sent the Mystics home packing. Man that has to burn!
Despite the end result, General Manager Head Coach Mike Thibault was still able to get the Mystics to the playoffs with a depleted roster. Now imagine what a potential healthy roster in the 2021 season can hold.