Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Defense lifts Mystics over Liberty, 67-54

Published on June 30, 2017

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June 29, 2017 - Elena Delle Donne dribbles past Tina Charles. Photo: NBAE/Getty Images.

June 29, 2017 – Elena Delle Donne dribbles past Tina Charles. Photo: NBAE/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was a bizarre night for the top Eastern conference matchup. Poor shooting and rock-solid defense from the Mystics and Liberty gave both teams their lowest scoring games of the season. With regular consistency and bench depth, the Mystics sealed a 67-54 win to stay atop the Eastern conference.

“We basically talked since the first day of training camp – you’re going to have ugly shooting nights,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said on the peculiar night. “Hopefully not like this, but if we learn how to defend, we can win some of those games. We won because we defended the heck out of them. I’m happy with that.”

The high-caliber 100-point Mystics team from Tuesday night was absent. The defensive work from Liberty guard Epiphanny Prince and forward Kia Vaughn gave Washington’s Kristi Toliver and Tayler Hill trouble. The Mystics were longing for their usual precision in shooting and guard play, but both went zero percent from the field.

“The other day, we said you don’t want to live and die by the three,” Toliver said on the performance. “We were getting obsessed with trying to find the mismatch and that slowed our pace and rhythm down a little bit.”

The slow start was dangerous against a team like the Liberty, executing a man-to-man defense that silenced the Mystics. Luckily while Washington was still finding an offensive edge, MVP-worthy Liberty forward Tina Charles had trouble getting into her usual fiery rhythm and strong post defending. The Mystics ended the faulty first quarter only down 15-9.

Washington’s bench players closed the holes the starters blew open. Led by Ivory Latta’s 15 points and Tianna Hawkins’ 13 points and  3 rebounds, they reinstalled quality defending and a rhythmic offense. Latta, Hawkins and Natasha Cloud scored 14 straight points against the Liberty to outscore them 23-12 in the second quarter. The trio combined for 30 of the 67 points of the game.

“We had to do what we had to do,” Latta said helping the team’s come together. “Whether it be lifting the team up or getting a run in. We look at it at just us doing our job.”

“They really energize us,” Thibault said on the trio. “That’s huge. Our bench bailed us out. Our starters  struggled to shoot the ball. The bench came in with Ivory, Tianna and Natasha and they just energized us.”

Even with the bench bailing out the Mystics, the team’s shooting percentage was dismal. Washington only outscored New York 14-7, with a field goal percentage that went from 43.8 percent in the second quarter to 21.1 percent in third. However, New York was even worse, shooting 16.7 percent in the third period.

“I don’t think we scored a point in the third quarter until Shavonte Zellous got fouled and there was only four minutes left,” Charles said on the Liberty’s mishaps. “I think everything fell on us offensively. At the end of the day, we have to step up. We didn’t have everyone carry their load tonight.”

The matchup between Charles and Washington’s Elena Delle Donne was one that was long awaited for the Eastern Conference. The forwards represent huge scoring portions of their teams. Both are held to a high standard of defending the post and opening scoring options. Interrupting defenses caused Charles to fall tremendously short of her 20.5 average points while Delle Donne continued to soar in her consistency.

“They were in [Tina’s] face,” Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer said on Charles’ performance. “Sometimes they trapped her, sometimes they didn’t. It caused her a little bit confusion.”

Charles finished the night with eight points and rebounds and only completed 3-of-15 field goals. Meanwhile, Delle Donne found success on the night with a team-high tie of 15 points and nine rebounds. Before the win, Delle Donne received her ring for the gold medal she won with USA Basketball at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Delle Donne’s consistency also helped her lead the Eastern Conference in the polls in the WNBA All-Star game early fan votes.

“I think it’s my teammates getting me open,” Delle Donne said on her continued success. “You just know if I’m not there somebody is going to help me get to where I need to be. So it’s that chemistry we have that keeps us on that level and gets us ready for each game.”

Defensively, both teams held their own with the Liberty out rebounding the Mystics 46 to 33. In the paint both teams collected 26 points. The game changer was Washington’s 11 steals along with New York’s 21 turnovers which led to 6 Mystic points.

The Mystics, now 10-5, will begin a three week road slate on July 2 against the Los Angeles Sparks while the Liberty continue their road games facing the Atlanta Dream the same day. The Mystics will finally be at a full throttle level as Belgian forward Emma Meesseman will be reinstated that game and the rest of the season.

Notes

  • This was the first matchup of three between Washington and New York
  • Latta recorded the 850th assist of her career when she found forward Tianna Hawkins for a layup with 8:21 remaining in the second quarter
  • The game marked scoring lows for both teams. Washington records 85.2 ppg. New York records 82.3
  • Both teams recorded 26 points in the paint.
  • 2nd Chance Points: Mystics 8 (3/ 5) Liberty: 2 (1/9)
  • Fast Break Points: Liberty 4 (1/ 4 ) Mystics: 5 (2/ 5 )
  • Technical Fouls: Liberty 6:46 3rd- Delay of Game Mystics: NONE
  • Biggest Lead: Liberty: 11 Washington: 18
  • Lead Changes: 3 Times Tied: 2

This post is part of the thread: 2017 WNBA Season – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


 

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