The prospects of the Washington Mystics defending their WNBA title in the postseason are dim as they likely need to win their final four games, starting with Tuesday night’s contest versus the Minnesota Lynx.
Much like the Seattle Storm playing without Breanna Stewart last year after winning the 2018 WNBA Finals, the Mystics (5-13) have struggled to adjust without their best player as Elena Delle Donne has been recovering from offseason back surgery. But the combination of playing in the “wubble,” and other key personnel opting not to play in Florida – notably offseason acquisition Tina Charles as well as LaToya Sanders and Natasha Cloud – has proven difficult for Washington.
Mike Thibault’s team is 1 1/2 games behind Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot, and the Mystics must overtake the Wings given they were swept in the season series following Sunday’s 101-94 overtime loss to them.
“Obviously, we’re pretty down,” Mystics point guard Leilani Mitchell told The Washington Post. “We knew this was a big game, and really if we would have won we would have put ourselves in a good position to still make the playoffs. Now it’s going to be really hard. We’ll probably have to win out our games and depend on other people to lose quite a few games.”
Myisha Hines-Allen continued her late push for Most Improved Player, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. Hines-Allen has recorded five double-doubles in her last eight games, averaging 16.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in that stretch.
The Lynx (13-6) have as much urgency as the Mystics to win this game considering they are still contending for a top-two spot that would give them a bye to the semifinals and trying to hold onto a top-four spot that would give them a bye to the second round.
Minnesota had a measuring stick game versus league-leading Seattle and came up short, losing 103-88 on Sunday as it was denied a fourth straight victory. Damiris Dantas had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Lynx, who hit 12 of 26 from 3-point range but also committed 26 turnovers.
That was the most committed by a Cheryl Reeve-coached team and led to 28 points for the Storm, and the coach did not mince words about her team’s performance.
“Our offense,” Reeve said bluntly to the Minneapolis Star Tribune when asked what had allowed the Storm’s offense to be so dominant. “Our offense and then our total disregard for our principles of what our defense is. And this is not the first game. This has been brewing.
“Think how many times we give up 50 points in a half. This defensive team isn’t good enough to beat good teams. Facts.”
Reeve has the statistics to back up that claim as four of the six losses the Lynx have absorbed have come from the teams above them in the standings – and Minnesota has allowed an average of 94.3 points in those defeats.
The good news for Reeve and the Lynx is they turned in their best defensive effort of the year in their first meeting with the Mystics, holding them to four fourth-quarter points in a 68-48 victory Aug. 11. Sylvia Fowles, who remains sidelined with a calf injury, had 16 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota while Crystal Dangerfield score 10 of her 12 points in the first half in helping the Lynx build a 21-point halftime lead.