When Washington Mystics’ Head Coach Mike Thibault called a timeout with his team trailing by two in the waning moments of tonight’s affair, it almost seemed as if the last remaining undefeated team in the “wubble” would find a way to at least tie the game, if not win. In the Mystics’ last possession, Emma Meesseman received the inbound pass from Ariel Atkins, but Chicago Sky’s stout defense forced her to the baseline, resulting in a poor pass that was picked off by Courtney Vandersloot. As the clock hit zero, the Mystics fell by the slimmest of margins, losing 88-86.
An overall slow start to the game saw the Mystics trailing by a score of 15–20 after one. They shot 6-17 from the field (37.5 percent) and missed three of four attempts from behind the arc (25 percent). The team also had four turnovers and three fouls. Despite perhaps the sloppiest start experienced by Washington, Chicago’s four turnovers and four fouls in the first meant that neither team established a dominant lead.
A more complete second quarter resulted in the Mystics leading at the break, 37-35. Thibault’s team could have gone into the half with a wider margin had it not been for shooting a dismal 2-9 from three (22 percent) and the Sky catching fire from downtown.
The third quarter was when the game started to open up. The Mystics came out of the half with four quick threes from Atkins (who had a team-high 24 points, while shooting 66-percent from three and making all six of her free throws), Leilani Mitchell (12 points and three assists) and Aerial Powers (20 points, seven rebounds and three steals). Washington threatened to pull away, but as was a game-long trend, Chicago fought back and ended the quarter with strong play from Gabby Williams and Allie Quigley. With one quarter remaining, the score was tied at 62 apiece.
Starting the third quarter off with some threes pic.twitter.com/1pYPlicDOK— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) August 1, 2020
As Vandersloot and Williams turned up the pressure in the fourth, it was Chicago that looked the more capable of the two sides. Beginning with 3:35 left in the third to around the five-minute mark of the fourth, Chicago outscored the Mystics 25-8, a margin that would ultimately be D.C.’s undoing.
Washington fought hard as the game wore on, with contributions from Atkins and veteran Shey Peddy (whose four points all came in the fourth), but failed to generate any lasting momentum. The Mystics shot a season-low 41.9-percent from the field, and a quiet offensive performance was reflected in Meesseman’s production. She only scored nine points, but did provide the team with nine rebounds and six assists.
In the fourth game of the season, Thibault leaned heavily on his starting five of Atkins, Myisha Hines-Allen (13 points, 12 rebounds and three steals), Meesseman, Mitchell and Powers. Only four bench players featured for the Mystics — Essence Carson (four points and three boards), Alaina Coates (zero points), Kiara Leslie (zero points and four assists) and Peddy — none of whom logged more than 15 minutes.
Despite a disheartening loss, the Mystics have played an exciting and balanced brand of basketball so far, made all the more impressive considering the players they are missing — last year’s MVP in Elena Delle Donne, 2019 starters Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders and 2012 MVP Tina Charles.
What makes this Mystics team special — and so hard to play against — is the fact that on any given night, there are arguably four or five players who can drop north of 20 points.
And don’t look now, but Atkins leads the league in made threes with 3.7 per game.
The Mystics’ next game is on Wednesday August 5th at 8 p.m. ET against the Las Vegas Aces and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.