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Mystics at Stars preview: Washington looks to take care of business in San Antonio

Stewart W. Small

The Mystics return from the All Star break with a trip to San Antonio to play the Stars. To put it bluntly, San Antonio has not been a very good team this year, and there’s a chance they’ll be without their leading scorer, Kayla McBride.

Even without Tayler Hill and (possibly) Elena Delle Donne, the Mystics are favorites to win this one. Don’t think that this game isn’t important, however. The Mystics are in a tight race for a top-4 seed in the playoffs. Taking care of business against the Stars could be the difference between receiving a bye to the second round and not.

Game info

Where and when: 12:30 p.m. ET at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas.

TV/streaming: Monumental Sports Network (150 miles of D.C.), WNBA League Pass (worldwide)

Injuries: For the Stars, Kayla McBride is questionable with an ankle injury. For the Mystics, Elena Delle Donne is questionable due to an ankle injury. Tayler Hill is out for the remainder of the season after tearing her ACL.

Keys to the Game

Will Toliver step up?

Kristi Toliver spent most of her career as a ball dominant score-first guard. In her last year with the Los Angeles Sparks (the year they won the championship), that began to shift, and Toliver played off ball more. She still wasn’t afraid to take big shots, but she let the Sparks two MVP forwards control the offense.

That trend has continued in D.C. Toliver’s usage rate is at a career-low. But with Hill out and Delle Donne questionable, the Mystics might need vintage Toliver to show up and generate some offense, just as she did in the Mystics’ big comeback win before the All Star Break.

Backcourt Defense

Even without McBride, the Stars have an incredibly dynamic backcourt duo in Moriah Jefferson and Kelsey Plum. Jefferson is incredibly fast, and both a skilled finisher and dangerous outside shooter. Plum, a rookie, spent her senior year of college smashing records. However, her agent has openly questioned her fit in San Antonio, and it has taken time for coach Vicki Johnson to figure out how she wants to deploy Plum.

But on paper, Plum and Jefferson are an unstoppable combination. When they figure it all out, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

With Hill’s injury, the Mystics still have plenty of guard depth, but they don’t have a lot of two way guards. Toliver and Ivory Latta are both deadly shooters but can struggle defensively. Natasha Cloud is an excellent defender but is shooting just 33% overall this season. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt can help out on perimeter players, but if McBride plays she will have her hands full. If the Mystics let this one slip away, it will be due to poor defense.