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Keys to the Palace: Ivory Latta and Krystal Thomas shine as Mystics finish June on positive note

The Mystics finally had a week where they played more than one or two games. They beat the Storm at home last Tuesday, beat the Liberty last Thursday, and lost a close game to the Sparks on Sunday. The TL;dr verison? The Mystics beat every non-elite team in the league, so that’s not a bad place to be.

Let’s go through some keys.

Keys to the Palace

Ivory Latta

Latta averaged 11 points last week, highlighted by her 15 point performance against the Liberty. Both Kristi Toliver and Tayler Hill weren’t firing on all cylinders, and thank god Latta was there to pick up the slack with her efficiency.

Krystal Thomas

There may be some of you who are wondering why Thomas started ahead of Emma Meesseman on Sunday, though Meesseman played like a madwoman in EuroBasket. The simple answer is because she’s continued to make the most out of starting minutes. She averaged 7.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last week while playing close to 30 minutes each night.

No one’s going to make the argument that Thomas is a better player than Meesseman. But fair or not, Thomas took advantage of Meesseman’s absence by playing within herself. Mike Thibault has shown a willingness to run with the hot hand like he did with the guard rotation in previous seasons. So don’t be entirely surprised if she’s still starting for at least a few more games.

Guest Passes

Elena Delle Donne

Delle Donne continued her run of double digit scoring, but that’s to be expected. Her best performance last week as a 25 point effort against the Storm. A 4 of 16 shooting performance against the Liberty is enought to put her in guest pass territory though.

Tayler Hill

Hill’s shooting performance is more than enough to earn her a lockout. However, she dished three assists in each of the Mystics’ last two games and even grabbed four rebounds in the Sparks game. In short, Hill found ways to contribute beyond shooting last week, so this pass is a recognition of that.

Tianna Hawkins

For a bench player like Hawkins, you expect to see some variability in her performances. She was outstanding last Thursday against the Liberty when she scored 13 points and grabbed four steals. That said, she was also quiet against the Sparks.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt

TRP scored in double digits in two of the three games last week. Furthermore, she made over half of her shots for the week. What holds her back from a key is her relatively quiet 3 point performance against the Liberty last Thursday.

Emma Meesseman

We saw Meesseman make her post-EuroBasket debut on Sunday against the Sparks where she scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots, and stole the ball twice. She came off the bench in her debut, perhaps as a warm up for the rest of the season. That said, Krystal Thomas has thrived as a starter since she left. And it’s not like the Mystics went on a long losing streak without her.

Lockouts

Kristi Toliver

After Toliver’s 15 point performance against the Storm, she shot 3 of 14 from the field in each of Washington’s last two games — and missed all 10 of her threes. Yikes!

Natasha Cloud

I like Cloud’s versatility to rebound and pass, even when her shot isn’t going. But last week, her shot wasn’t on point, and she didn’t contribute much in other areas. I’d give her a key for her social media game. But I expect a stronger scoring punch from her than I’ve seen last week (3 ppg on 3 of 15 shooting over three games). In fact, Cloud only scored over 10 points in one game this season.

Not enough time for an evaluation

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Jennie Simms, and Asia Taylor didn’t play enough time to get an evaluation.