Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Versatility intensifies Mystics’ magic in 100-80 victory over Indiana

Published on August 13, 2017

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WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 12: Kristi Toliver handles the ball against the Indiana Fever. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images.

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Washington Mystics cruised to a 100-80 win over the Indiana Fever after a long rain delay and dominant performance from Washington’s bigs.

“Neither team has gone through that kind of stuff before,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said on the delay. “You just come out and get loose and you stick to your game plan. We were scoring so easily for parts of the game that the tendency is to trade baskets a little bit, and that’s not a good habit to get into. I thought we did that in the third quarter.”

Washington began the matchup with consistency. They jumped out to a 28-16 lead in the first quarter and lead the Fever by as much as 18 before the end of the first half.

“I thought we allowed Washington to be really comfortable early on,” Indiana head coach Pokey Chatman said. “Overall I just didn’t think we got into our side pick and rolls or moved the basketball around to get it to key players so they can knock down shots.”

The Mystics were paced by forward Emma Meesseman who had 11 points in the first half. Her team looks to her for rhythm and leadership.

“I try to do my job and maybe more,” Meesseman said. “The leadership comes with confidence. I have a lot of confidence from this team that I feed off of.”

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud saw her first minutes since her foot injury in the July 25 matchup against San Antonio. She contributed four assists and added an aggressive defensive edge. An impressive defensive stand from Washington guard Ivory Latta kept Fever guard Erica Wheeler, who scored career-high 33 points against the New York Liberty in the Fever’s previous game, to zero points in the first half.

“It really helps,” Thibault said on having Cloud back. “It allows Ivory (Latta) to roam the court and gives us size on the wing. With (Cloud), she can defend and it helps us out a lot.”

A 48-minute delay for court safety due to a leak in the roof kept the Fever and Mystics from continuing the matchup as the Mystics held a 49-36 lead over Fever at halftime. Once the game resumed, a new Fever team emerged on the court.

“We scored, but we let [Candice] Dupree get going,” Thibault said. “I thought that was a combination of them finding her more and us losing maybe a little bit of defensive focus.”

Wheeler began the third quarter with eight points to begin cutting into the Mystics’ lead. Fever forward Candice Dupree scored 22 points in the third quarter alone. Washington only outscored Indiana 26-25 in that quarter after leading by 18 at the beginning of second half.

“We warmed up for five minutes just like they did and we came back at it,” Dupree said. “I thought our offense was flowing a little bit better than it did in the first [half] but we just got to do a better job on the defensive end.”

The burst was short-lived as Washington scored 51 points overall in the second half to defeat Indiana 100-80. Fluidity and rhythm amongst the Mystics displayed how much each player stepped up. Though heavy contributor, guard Kristi Toliver, only scored nine points on the night, the win shows Washington’s versatility in shooting options. Mystics guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough signaled her growth as she finished with 13 points on the night.

Thibault said he told Walker-Kimbrough that she was “no longer a rookie” in practices before this week’s game. Her willingness to elevate her performance and embrace the intensity foreshadows a bright future for her.

“He has a lot of confidence in me,” Walker-Kimbrough said on Thibault’s comments. “He continues to encourage me day in and day out at practice. Knowing that coach counts on me and giving me confidence goes along with my performance. I want to do anything I can to help our team.”

The Mystics bench contributed 35 of the 100 points scored. Indiana’s weak ability to protect the rim was a perfect Achilles heel for the Mystics attack. With dominant forwards, the Mystics scored 40 points in the paint.

Forward Tianna Hawkins, Meesseman and center Krystal Thomas gracefully alternated in their roles in the paint. The trio are the top three rebounders for the Mystics, sharing 24 of the 35 rebounds collected against Indiana.

“I think it’s important,” Thomas said on the versatility amongst the Mystics. “When we play like we did tonight, we’re a threat. We have such talented players and it makes it dangerous when we play together like we did tonight.”

Coach Chatman acknowledged the fault in the team defense where they allowed 28 defensive rebounds.

“One thing we need to work on is our pick-and-roll game,” Chatman said, “Our rotations are late and when you’re late you foul to recover. That’s free throws. [Krystal Thomas] is a big body. She rolls to the basket, basically breaking down the game.”

Thomas muscled her way to the basket to earn her second double-double of the season and her career high points of 20 points and 14 rebounds. This is Thomas’ seventh straight game of double digit rebounds.

“I just wanted to be aggressive tonight,” Thomas said. “I knew they were weak inside and I wanted to make sure I exploited that.”

The win marks the highest field goal percentage for the Mystics this season, completing 57 percent of their shots. Improving to 16-10, Washington looks to clinch the fourth playoff spot and get earn a bye of the first week of playoffs. The Fever fall to 9-19 on the season.

Notes

  • Points in the Paint: Fever: 26 Mystics: 40
  • Rebounds: Fever: 25 Mystics: 35
  • Technical Fouls: Fever: NONE Mystics: 1:08 1st
  • Biggest Lead: Mystics: 27 Fever: 0
  • Five Mystics scored in double figure led by center Krystal Thomas with a career high, 20 points on 7-8 shooting and 14 rebounds.
  • Forward Emma Meesseman added 15 points and tied her career high in assists with 7.
  • Fever’s Candice Dupree led the way for Indiana with 26 points on 12-18 shooting and 8 rebounds.

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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