The second week of the 2015 WNBA season is now in the books. With the week now complete, the Washington Mystics split their last two games and remain the WNBA's best team in the Eastern Conference, via a tiebreaker with the 3-1 Connecticut Sun.
On Friday, the Mystics suffered a tough 64-61 loss at home to the Atlanta Dream where they squandered a 13-point lead and let Atlanta complete a furious comeback to win the game. The dagger play happened when Mystics swingman Natasha Cloud turned over an inbounds pass with less than a minute left, and Dream star forward Angel McCoughtry made the dagger three on the following possession.
In short, this game was a little like Game 3 of the Wizards vs. Hawks playoff series, except that Paul Pierce didn't make that buzzer-beater that ended up being a great Mother's Day gift. It was a very frustrating loss for many reasons. Of them, Ivory Latta's shooting was arguably the biggest. She shot 2 of 12 overall for a grand total of 5 points, and she also had five turnovers. We'll get back to her later.
The Mystics followed that loss up with a big 74-59 win over the New York Liberty after a sluggish start. Heading into Sunday's game, the Mystics were only shooting 26.8 percent overall from the three-point line but went 10-of-24, or 41.7 percent from deep in this game. In this game, Latta redeemed herself to score 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting that led all scorers. Another thing to note is that the New York Liberty's two losses this season came to the Mystics.
Let's get to some takeaways:
1. The Mystics have to do a better job overcoming superstar takeovers if they are to remain one of the WNBA's top teams
One of the Mystics' challenges this season will be overcoming a lack of a franchise player who can take over when needed when a game is close. The Mystics looked like they were going to close out a win against the Dream last Friday but as mentioned above, Angel McCoughtry made the go-ahead three to give her team the win. She also scored 10 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter and ultimately was the difference in the game.
This is just one game where a superstar takes over at the right time to beat a team that doesn't have as much star talent, so maybe it's a bit harsh. But over the course of this season, Washington is going to have to develop more chemistry to be able to overcome that more times than not. In the long run, they're also going to have to see which younger player(s) has/have at least some potential to be a consistent performer in the clutch.
2. PICK UP THE PACE!
The Mystics' pace was 11th in the league with 86.5 possessions per game entering into Sunday's contest, per Basketball-Reference. The ranking is a far cry from what General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault has been clamoring for since the day he took this job. The personnel is there for this team to be a closer to a run-and-gun squad, but the stagnant offensive spells -- and their lack of fast break points in general -- are a concern if that's what they're really trying to do. A team with eight players on rookie contracts, even if most are on the bench, shouldn't be a walk-it-up team to say the least.
That said, the Mystics played some really efficient basketball, and played their type of ball in the last three quarters during their Sunday win. That's the type of basketball that we want to see out of them if they are really going to remain the Eastern Conference's best team when the regular season is done.
3. The injury bug isn't slowing D.C. down
Kia Vaughn missed Sunday's game due to a concussion while Bria Hartley and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt missed both of last week's games due to other nagging injuries.
Since all three players are starters or rotation-level players, you'd think that this would have really hurt the Mystics' performance over the course of the season. But so far, while their contributions are missed, it's not like they're playing considerably worse without them. They are 3-1 after all.
BF's Mystics player for Week 2 (June 8 to June 14): Tayler Hill
So far this season, it's been tough to say that one player has been a runaway "best player of the week." We were close to giving this to Meesseman for the second straight week after she scored 21 points and 9 rebounds during Friday's loss. However, a 2 point and 5 rebound performance on Sunday erased that because she was very inconsistent. After looking at the rest of the roster, we wanted to find someone who performed consistently throughout the week. That player is third-year guard Tayler Hill.
Hill wasn't the leading scorer for either of last weekend's games, but she scored 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting and stole the ball four times during Friday's loss and was a bright spot despite Washington's loss. She followed that up with an 8 point performance in Sunday's win. Hill wasn't the best Mystics player for any game, but we didn't see her have a hot game on Friday and follow that up with a dud or vice versa.
Since Hill is one of the Mystics' top performers based on per-36 minute production and overall, I'm starting to wonder whether she should be put into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Given that she is the only young player on the team who is a draft lottery pick, it's not like Thibault drafted her to be Armintie Herrington's and Kara Lawson's caddy, let alone Bria Hartley's.
Who will the Mystics play this week?
The Mystics will host the 3-1 Tulsa Shock on Friday at 7 p.m. where you can watch that game on Monumental Network online or WNBA LiveAccess elsewhere. Like the Mystics, the Shock's a team built around youth. But unlike Washington, Tulsa is more or less the WNBA's Washington Wizards if they stuck to building with youth the whole way from the time when Ted Leonsis became the majority owner of the team just over five years ago.
They have a rising star young backcourt with Skylar Diggins and 2014 Team USA FIBA World Championship player Odyssey Sims. Now that I'm talking about backcourts, I wouldn't call Diggins-Sims a one to one comparison to John Wall and Bradley Beal because they are both most comfortable at point guard. Also, Wall is a traditional point guard, and Beal is a traditional shooting guard. But since both players are very young, they are the WNBA's "House of Guards," the engine that makes their team go. I'm sold on the Shock this season, and if there's another team I follow in the league, it's this one.
After the Shock game, Washington will travel to Indianapolis to play the Fever at 7 p.m. on Sunday. That game will only be on LiveAccess (or WISH if you're in the Indianapolis area). Since the Fever's currently 1-4, we've heard that there's a special someone up for grabs next year...