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Mystics win two at home, lose one on the road; Tayler Hill has a career high

The Mystics are getting closer to clinching a third straight playoff berth and one of their key players is stepping up at the right time.

Stewart W. Small

The midseason grind continues for the Mystics, who are still clinging to the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 13-8 record. The Chicago Sky is right on their tail with a 14-9 record.

This week the Mystics started the week with a 66-63 win over the San Antonio Stars. The Mystics rallied back from an 11-point deficit at halftime by clamping down defensively. Next was a home-and-home with the Connecticut Sun. The Mystics dropped the first game, losing 86-72 in Connecticut.

On the one hand, the Sun are knee-deep in a rebuild and missing their best player Chiney Ogwumike, so the Mystics probably should have been able to win both games.

But on the other hand, their loss was just one of those games: Alex Bentley went off for an efficient 31 points (a career high) at Mohegan Sun while the Mystics starting backcourt shot a combined 4-19. Sometimes shots fall. And sometimes they don't. The Mystics held Bentley to just two points in the win at the Verizon Center, righting the ship and winning 84-73.

Here are some takeaways from the week that was:

Tayler Hill is finding her footing

Mystics fans have spent a lot of time fretting about Tayler Hill. She was taken with the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, behind three clear franchise players (Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins). Her rookie year was unimpressive, and she struggled to get playing time behind role-player veterans like Matee Ajavon and Monique Currie. She missed the majority of her sophomore season after having a child and came into 2015 as a big glaring question mark on the Mystics roster.

Before the All-Star break, Hill averaged 5.5 points in 14.5 minutes a night. Post-All-Star break, she's averaging 12.3 points in 20.7 minutes a night. She had a career-high 20 points in the win over the Sun.

But perhaps most importantly, she looked assertive and aggressive, two traits that were missing from her game early on. In the loss to the Sun, she had an abysmal shooting night (like every other Mystics guard), going just 1-8. But she also got to the line 8 times, a game-high (the entire Sun squad took 10). I could be looking too hard for a signal in the noise here, but this looks like the Tayler Hill we were excited about on Draft Night in 2013.

The Mystics play best as a halfcourt team

Something notable about the 2015 Mystics is that they actually play really slowly: As I write this, they have the second slowest pace in the league, at 72.3.

This isn't totally surprising, as they were one of the slower teams in the league last year as well. But for last year's team, the slow pace was a problem, indicative of tentativeness and lack of aggression from the young roster. And that tentativeness lead to mistakes: The Mystics had the third highest total number of turnovers in the league, despite playing at the third slowest pace.

But this year? They were dead last in the league in total turnovers. Stay tuned, because I will have a lot more to say about this later.

BF's Mystics Player of the Week (August 3-9): Tayler Hill

Since I've said a lot about Hill's great performance last week, this honor goes to her. In a week where nearly everyone was inconsistent, Hill is the Mystics' leading scorer. She's also averaging 5.3 free throws a game this week, as well as chipping in a 2.3 boards and 1.3 steals a game.

Who do the Mystics play this week (through August 16)?

Day Team Time (ET) TV/Online
Tuesday, August 11 Indiana Fever 7 p.m. Monumental Network/WNBA Live Access
Sunday, August 16 Minnesota Lynx 4 p.m. Monumental Network/WNBA Live Access

The Minnesota Lynx have won two championships in the last three years, but for whatever reason the Mystics tend to bring a good game whenever the two teams meet. Here's to hoping for a 2-0 week, but 1-1 will be perfectly respectable.