In a bizarre “tale of two halves” game, the Mystics survived a big Wings comeback to win 91-85 on the road. It was the team’s 23rd win of the season, a franchise record.
The Mystics took the lead 7:25 minutes into the game and never let it go, but what looked like a blowout in the third quarter became quite tense in the fourth.
The Wings, who had been down by as much as 23 points, made a comeback run in the 4th quarter, sparked by Glory Johnson’s career night from behind the arc. They cut the lead down to 6 more than once in the final minutes. As impressive as Johnson and soon-to-be-superstar Arike Ogunbowale were, the Mystics have no one to blame but themselves for the disappearing lead. They scored just eight points in the final quarter, as their historically good offense went ice-cold and they gave up possession after possession to bad (very, very bad) passes.
But the advantage of building a 23-point lead early in the game is that you can fall apart in the fourth quarter and still win. The Mystics managed to get their defense back in order and got a timely bucket from Elena Delle Donne with about a minute to play, and Natasha Cloud iced a pair of free throws to keep things under control. The Mystics ultimately won 91-85, tightening their grip on the #1 seed.
The Dallas Wings are not a playoff team, and a loss tonight for the Mystics would have been unacceptable. But the Mystics were missing an All Star tonight (Kristi Toliver), and the player who would typically replace Toliver in the starting lineup (Aerial Powers). Thibault went eight deep, though he did play Delle Donne almost 38 minutes, probably more than he would have liked.
The Mystics were led by Delle Donne with 28 points. Ogunbowale led the Wings with 30 points and 7 assists.
Emma Meesseman, point forward
With Powers out, Thibault opted for an extra-big starting lineup that included Sanders, Delle Donne and Meesseman alongside Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins. It’s an experiment that keeps looking better and better as the season goes on.
But what really allows the trio to make the unconventional lineup is their collective playmaking abilities. Meesseman had 7 assists, the team high by a wide margin. Her pick and pop game chemistry with Delle Donne’s has improved by leaps and bounds, and the Wings spent much of the game on the wrong end of mismatches and seemingly lost on defense.
Hello, Natasha Cloud!
Cloud’s ability to both seamlessly run the offense and make plays like this for herself is a huge part of the Mystics’ success this year, particular with Toliver out.