“Sometimes it’s better just to survive.”
Those were the words Washington Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault said to start off the postgame press conference after their Game 1 victory Tuesday night edging the Las Vegas Aces, 97-95 after Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum missed a potential game-tying shot.
Thibault brought three key takeaways to the media’s attention that stood out in Washington’s win that need to be fixed for Game 2 on Thursday.
No. 1: Bench scoring must increase
One of the reasons why the Mystics are such a great well-rounded team is because of the momentum their reserves bring while the starters rest. This wasn’t the case on Tuesday, as the Aces’ reserves scored 30, while Washington just scored 16.
Kristi Toliver led with 8 points, all in the second half, while Plum had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. Thibault made it clear “Vegas [Aces], particularly the bench, gave them a great lift.”
And Washington should know exactly what a lift from the reserves can do. They’ve been doing it all season.
No. 2: Transition defense must improve too
“Most of every timeout was about defensive things”, Coach Thibault said when analyzing the match ups between both teams.
The Mystics had set which player they would guard on one end, but Las Vegas had other plans making cross matches that caused the lack of transition for Washington. This caused a “scramble” because as the Mystics are trying to readjust, the Aces have started and begun their game plan.
“[The Aces] were out-letting the ball 15 feet up the floor and kind of on top of us before we got organized defensively, and some of that comes from missing shots and they’re going at us,” Thibault said.
This was considered an easy fix as they started to fix the flaws in the second half limiting the Aces when it comes to run outs and forcing them to play half-court.
No. 3: The Mystics need more free throw opportunities
A big notice stat wise was the difference in free-throw attempts between both teams. Las Vegas got to the line 22 times, while the Mystics only went to the line for 10. Thibault mentioned if this difference is the case then they’ll be in a battle every night, so that has to change on both ends.
“We’ve got to be maybe be a little more aggressive. We’ve got to get some of the same calls, but we can’t put them on the line 22 times either”, he said.
Of those 22 foul attempts from the Aces, forward/center A’ja Wilson shot 7-of-8 from the free-throw line, the most in the game, followed behind by Liz Cambage who was 3-of-4.