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Mystics vs. Liberty Game 2 preview: Can Washington close it out at home?

The Mystics are 40 minutes away from sweeping the Liberty. We go over some stats from Game 1 that they will need to keep up in order to do just that.

Stewart W. Small

The Mystics surprised a lot of WNBA pundits and fans (though not us so much) on Friday with their 86-83 overtime win over the New York Liberty.

As you might expect, they were celebrating on the train ride back:

But there's still another game left to go.

On Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET, you can watch the Mystics take a crack at closing the deal at Verizon Center.

You can watch the game on ESPN or if you're in the District and have nothing to do, now's a great time to buy a ticket and watch the game in person:

While you're there, you may even see a familiar face.

Keys to winning Game 2

1. Knock the Libs out of the gym early

There's no need for me to talk about stats on this one. But if the Mystics can overwhelm New York from the start along with hometown support, that could very well be the push needed to t

In 2013, the Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of their playoff series on the road. That gave fans a lot of optimism for Game 2 at the Verizon Center for an elimination game on September 21, 2013. But they came out totally flat in the first quarter and shot 25 percent from the field en route to a 63-45 loss.

At the time, Crystal Langhorne was still considered by most fans and the league to be the face of the team. Then, most in the league thought she'd be a lifer in Monumental Red.

Anyway, she scored zero points and only grabbed three rebounds in the loss, well off her season averages that season. After that game, Washington lost again to Atlanta and was eliminated.

In the following year's draft, Langhorne was traded to the Seattle Storm for Bria Hartley and Tianna Hawkins. There certainly were plenty of reasons why it made sense for the Mystics to let Langhorne go. But her disappearance in Game 2 of the Dream series was a symbolic final nail in the coffin as to why she was not a fit for the Mystics' future in my opinion.

If a veteran like Ivory Latta or Kia Vaughn disappears, it wouldn't shock me to see them out the door as well next year given that there's a lot of young talent who need to get into prominent roles sooner rather than later.

This isn't to say that I don't like Latta or Vaughn. To the contrary, I do like what they've done here in Washington. And I don't expect Latta and/or Vaughn to disappear at all because both are Mike Thibault acquisitions. Langhorne was a holdover from a previous regime.

Either way, the Mystics want to show that they, as constructed, are a team that's really on the rise. Today's performance will show if they are up to the challenge. So just crush the Liberty from the beginning and we aight.

2. Keep getting Tina Charles to shoot mid range shots!

For a post player, the former Mike Thibault protegé and 2012 WNBA MVP is not a bad shooter from deep. But that said, Charles takes a ton of shots between 10-20 feet and is making them at a below average rate compared with all other WNBA players as we showed you in the series preview.

In Game 1, Charles scored 22 points, but only shot 10 of 27 from the field.  Below is a chart of her shot attempts:

charles game 1 shots

Yeah, Charles has some room for improvement, especially from midrange where there are plenty of red squares for missed shots. So the Mystics should let Charles take her time taking inefficient shots that she is already inefficient at making.

3. More corner threes please!

It's kinda funny that ESPN would consider the Wizards skeptical of analytics and the Mystics pioneers despite the fact that Ted Leonsis owns both teams. The way I'd reconcile this paradox is that Randy Wittman is a skeptic and Mike Thibault is a pioneer.

But take a look at this shot chart of the Mystics in Game 1, and pay closer attention to their shots at the three point line.

mystics game 1 shots

They just weren't taking many shots at the corners let alone those from three-point range. Only one attempt can be classified as a corner three on this chart.

When Ivory Latta, Tayler Hill, and Kara Lawson can make more threes than the Liberty can -- and we didn't even get to Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson yet -- let's get some more opportunities for the drive and kick game to work out.

I know some, including myself, have reservations on whether the Mystics can get over the hump of the first round without a bonafide franchise superstar. But believe me, we all would love to be proven wrong. This team has the ingredients to pull out one more win against the Liberty so hopefully they'll do just that this afternoon!