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The Mystics’ playoff hopes are still alive, but their room for error is slim

Washington is tied with the New York Liberty for the No. 8 seed in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference.

Dallas Wings v Washington Mystics
Elena Delle Donne has returned to game action for the Washington Mystics. But they are still not where they need to be for a playoff run.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Since the Olympic break ended, the Washington Mystics have lost six of their last eight games and are 10-16 with just six games left to go. Given this trend, it seems likely that Washington will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016. However, they are the No. 8 seed and just half a game ahead of the New York Liberty who have lost five games and are a full game ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks, who have lost four straight of their own. In short, it seems like the Liberty, Sparks and Mystics are more or less competing for the No. 8 seed.

In short, if Washington can win all six of their remaining games, they’ll finish with a .500 record and will have a playoff berth with room to spare. However, it’s important that we also look at the teams left on the schedule, since I don’t think it’s realistic that they are winning all of their remaining games:

  • at Lynx on Saturday, Sept. 4
  • at Storm on Tuesday, Sept. 7
  • vs. Dream on Friday, Sept. 10
  • at Sky on Sunday, Sept. 12
  • at Liberty on Friday, Sept. 17
  • vs. Lynx on Sunday, Sept. 19

The remaining schedule isn’t ideal but it isn’t too top-heavy.

The Mystics’ next game is against the Lynx who are in the Top 4 and they will have their regular season finale against them as well, though it’s also possible that they may rest some players if their seed is already determined. Washington also has one more game against the Storm on the road, and it won’t be easy for this squad to defeat the defending WNBA champions given their injury woes.

Besides the two Lynx and Storm road games, Washington’s remaining games are against the Sky, whom they have a 1-1 record against and the Liberty, whom they also have a 1-1 record against. Elena Delle Donne is back, though she is on limited minutes and will probably not make the road trip for their next two games, according to General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault during a presser on Thursday. That said, the Mystics have played most of this season without Delle Donne anyway and any game with her is a bonus, at least in my opinion, for this season.

Charles on the other hand, may be back as soon as Saturday for the Mystics’ next game since she has recently suffered a left gluteal strain. Any successful postseason push by Washington will likely require a Charles return.

I consider the Storm game a likely loss. But if Washington can beat Minnesota at least once while winning their games against the likely-lottery-bound Dream and the currently-slumping Liberty, that should be good enough to make the postseason. Washington was one of the wildcard teams in preseason predictions, where they could win a championship if everyone was healthy. But even without Alysha Clark, Delle Donne for most of the regular season and Emma Meesseman, Washington should still have enough talent to make the Top-8. If Washington makes the playoffs, they are still a team that could find their way to the semifinals given the single-elimination nature of the first two rounds.

Still, given how they have looked in the last two years, many of Washington’s moves to become a more veteran team in the last couple seasons since their 2019 championship season haven’t worked out. If they don’t make the playoffs this season, I think it’s going to be time to start building more actively for the future.