The Washington Mystics deserve all the praise they can get after winning the 2019 WNBA championship against the Connecticut Sun. I’m happy and to a good extent, I don’t care how they won the title. I’m just glad that they did.
But championship teams still need some luck on their side. The Mystics’ “Run It Back” campaign didn’t just feature an all-time great offense or Emma Meesseman coming to the rescue.
In my opinion, the Mystics’ first, and possibly most, pivotal moment happened before the 2019 WNBA season began.
Meesseman played for UMMC Ekaterinburg against Russian rival Dynamo Kursk in the FIBA EuroLeague Women championship game last April. Though UMMC won which is great for Meeesseman, it was bad for Dynamo and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart because she tore her Achilles in that game.
Stewart was also the 2018 WNBA MVP for Seattle, who swept the Mystics in the Finals that season where she also was the Finals MVP.
The Storm’s woes didn’t stop there. Point guard Sue Bird also sat out the season due to injury. Though the Storm finished at a better-than-expected 18-16 record and a second round playoff appearance, Stewart’s injury was essentially a fatal blow to their championship hopes this season.
Of course, I’m not hoping that other star players get injured so the Mystics can benefit. But I’ll also admit that that Stewart’s injury made the road to a Washington championship considerably easier in 2019.
So here’s a thought exercise. We know the Mystics won the championship this year. But if they faced a Storm team in the Finals with a healthy Stewart and Bird, would they still be able to pull it off?
I’m not so sure. In fact, there’s good reason why the Mystics, even with “Playoff Emma,” wouldn’t be able to beat Seattle at full strength.
In the frontcourt, the potent Stewart and WNBA All-Star Natasha Howard frontcourt would have likely forced Mystics head coach Mike Thibault to start Meesseman at center alongside Delle Donne at power forward. The backcourt matchups would be quite interesting because while Bird, Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada and Alysha Clark are strong perimeter talents on offense for Seattle, Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud are an All-WNBA Defensive team quality backcourt for Washington. Kristi Toliver will still make Seattle pay with her clutch threes.
The reserve matchups are also intriguing where I think Washington would have the edge, even with Meesseman presumably moving to the starting lineup and LaToya Sanders going to the bench. Crystal Langhorne and Mercedes Russell (who I assume would be a reserve if Stewart were healthy) would pose fits for Sanders, Aerial Powers, Tianna Hawkins and Myisha Hines-Allen and vice versa. Sami Whitcomb has also been a strong reserve guard for Seattle like Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has for Washington.
There is a side of me that longed for a rematch of the 2018 WNBA Finals. After all, “Run It Back” seems to imply that the Mystics wanted one more chance at the Storm for a title. Unfortunately, injuries like Stewart’s happen and the Mystics ultimately took advantage of the opportunity, which they should.
So, do you believe the 2019 Washington Mystics would still defeat the 2019 Seattle Storm assuming Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird were healthy all year? Let us know in the comments below.