The Washington Mystics survived a scare on Sunday night, defeating the Minnesota Lynx inside the Target Center 78-66. Washington struggled to defend inside shots in the second half, but tightened up in the end to move to 2-0.
Natasha Cloud got going for Washington early with three quick buckets, including two 3’s, and Myisha Hines-Allen made her presence felt with four points and four rebounds as the Mystics jumped out to an early 21-17 lead by the second timeout.
On the other end, Minnesota’s Jessica Shepard started 3-4 from the field as Washington’s perimeter defense struggled to close out on shooters. Rebounding proved difficult in the early going as well as Washington allowed five offensive rebounds and several second chance points in the first quarter, yet still held a 24-19 lead at the end of the first quarter.
From there, Cloud continued to shoot the ball well from distance. She connected on a pull-up three and then a crossover triple from her gave Washington a 29-19 lead. Cloud scored a few possessions later as the shot-clock wound down and Washington led 31-21 with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
Nikolina Milic hit a jumper for Minnesota to make 38-23. Washington answered with 7-0 run as Shakira Austin layed it up, Hines-Allen scored on a crafty driving floater, and Ariel Atkins made a three. Lastly, Austin had a putback layup on what was Washington’s final score of the half.
The make gave Washington a 2-for-1 opportunity but Shatori Walker-Kimbrough missed a jumper to give Washington a 47-23 lead going into the break. Washington shot 19-40 from the field in the first and out-rebounded Minnesota 25-15.
Washington came out of the half looking like the same team. The man-to-man defense tightened up and Atkins and Walker-Kimbrough connected on back-to-back jumpers to initiate a 5-2 run. Atkins scored inside, Hines-Allen stopped and connected and Austin ran the floor and finished, letting out a “Let’s go!” scream. She drew a foul on the other end and clapped with a smile on the walk back. Walker-Kimbrough then scored on the other end as Washington scored 14 points in the third quarter.
Minnesota had one last response with its interior finishing and cut Washington’s lead to 18, but Austin answered for Washington and Walker-Kimbrough free throws boosted the team’s lead back up with 5:17 remaining.
Down the stretch, Shepard and Yvonne Turner carried the offense to help keep the Mystics at bay. Shepard scored on a contested three-pointer while Turner hit a mid-range floater and was fouled on the drive. She made the free throw and cut Washington’s lead to 74-64 with 2:43 left.
Atkins had a notable highlight block, rotating from the weak-side of the defense and sending a shot attempt out of bounds. With the possession and the score at 76-66 in the final minute, Minnesota fans began to leave and from there, Atkins hit a layup late to finish her night 6-17 from the field and Washington won going away.
Ariel Atkins led Washington in scoring with 20 points to go along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Natasha Cloud had 19 points on 7-13 shooting. Shakira Austin and Myisha Hines-Allen had 13 and 11 points. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Washington returns home to take on the Las Vegas Aces this Tuesday. That game tips at 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed on Facebook or NBC Sports Washington.