The Mystics entered tonight’s game looking to keep pace with the Dallas Wings for the eighth seed. Sitting 1.5 games back of the final playoff spot, Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault inserted Jacki Gemelos into the starting lineup. The team was looking for a big response after a tough overtime loss to Dallas just two days prior.
As has become customary in the WNBA, both teams took shot clock violations to begin each quarter to spotlight the fight for social justice and emphasize the importance of registering to vote and overcoming voter suppression.
Myisha Hines-Allen started her offensive domination with a seven-foot shot at 9:17 in the first. From there, she took off. Hines-Allen, who has increased her scoring by 13.1 points per game — the most in WNBA history — finished the night with 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists and shot 65% from the field.
Leilani Mitchell also got going early, pulling the strings and threading the needle all night long. If a player was open, and sometimes even if they weren’t, Mitchell found a way to get the ball into their hands. The Mystics’ point guard compiled 10 assists and 6 points.
The Mystics jumped to a 9–2 lead before forcing a Minnesota timeout. Several minutes later, with nothing really having changed, Minnesota was forced to call for another stoppage of play. This time, however, something clicked.
Offensive rebounding and sharp shooting from MVP candidate Napheesa Collier and rookie standout Crystal Dangerfield kept the score close. After one, the score was Mystics 24, Lynx 20.
The start of the second saw back-and-forth scoring as well as the first foul, which incredibly took more than 13 minutes of game time. Battling a constant barrage from the Minnesota offense, Hines-Allen, Ariel Atkins, and Emma Meesseman carried the scoring load for the Mystics. No other Washington player scored before the half. Atkins and Meesseman each had nine points, while Hines-Allen contributed six.
Even with the scoring prowess of Atkins, Meesseman and Hines-Allen, Minnesota wouldn’t go away, trailing the Mystics by seven at the half.
The third quarter was characterized by sloppy play, turnovers and shot clock violations. Despite the absence of Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota did a good job on the boards while Atkins kept the Mystics afloat. With 0.3 seconds remaining in the third, Tianna Hawkins (14 points) fouled Erica McCall, whose free throws gave the Lynx their first lead of the game — not bad for a team that mustered just 48 points in the previous outing against Minnesota.
Despite trailing early in the fourth, it was Kiara Leslie — who came off the bench to register five points two assists and one steal — who got the Mystics going. She hit a three then stole an errant pass which led to a layup.
As the game wore on, it became clear that Hines-Allen wouldn’t back down; she just doesn’t quit. Atkins — who finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists —also displayed her grit and determination when she drove and took a hard foul with 4:43 left.
With four minutes remaining, Hines-Allen rolled her ankle on Meesseman’s foot before Atkins accidentally stepped on the same foot. The Mystics’ leading scorer left the game and wouldn’t return until the 1:14 minute mark.
For the two and a quarter minutes Hines-Allen was out, Washington found a way to get the job done. As time wound down, Hawkins made several free throws and Dangerfield missed a late two.
With a chance to run out the game clock, Atkins appeared to throw the ball out of bounds. Upon review, however, Collier clearly whacked Atkins’ arm, causing her to mishandle the ball. A botched call saw Minnesota regain possession with a chance to even the score.
Even with an added possession, the Lynx were unable to rally, and the Mystics earned their sixth win of the shortened season. With Atkins, Hines-Allen, Meesseman — who had 18 points and shot 80% from the field — and Mitchell all bringing their A-games tonight, the Mystics proved too difficult to beat.
This was a much-needed win against a strong opponent. Of Minnesota’s starting five, four scored more than 10 points. Collier (21 points and 11 rebounds), Dangerfield (20 and 7 assists on 63% shooting), Damiris Dantas (14) and Odyssey Sims (17) all made life difficult for the Mystics tonight.
Hopefully this win serves as the catalyst that will lift the defending champs to the playoffs.
The Mystics’ next game is on Thursday September 10th at 10 p.m. ET against the Los Angeles Aces and will be broadcast on CBSSN and NBC Sports Washington.