Mystics drop preseason finale to Lynx, 74-59

Full Preseason Results

 — The Washington Mystics finished their final exhibition game with a 74-59 loss to the Minnesota Lynx, finishing the 2017 preseason 1-1. Missing key players in their usual offensive machine for offense kept the Mystics from performing at full potential.

“Your offense looks better when you put the points on the other three [Elena Delle Donne, Emma Messerman and Kristi Toliver],” head coach Mike Thibault said. “Now people like Tianna [Hawkins] and those players play their normal role as the seventh or eighth person, now your team has a different look and balance to it.”

Hawkins, a four-year veteran, led the Mystics’ offensive presence, finishing the game with team-high 14 points and also served as a defensive answer with seven rebounds.

“We’re gonna need her to be that efficient,” Thibault said. “She’s playing with a lot more confidence. Defensively, she’s improved a lot throughout training camp.”

Leading as a veteran,  guard Natasha Cloud was the team’s second highest scorer with a 11 points and two rebounds.  Guard Tayler Hill performed to her best ability with an ankle injury, contributing seven points and two defensive rebounds.

Out of the Mystics five rookies that were signed over the summer, only Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland) and Caira Washington (George Washington) played in the preseason finale. Walker-Kimbrough did not score but collected four defensive rebounds. Washington checked into the game late in the fourth quarter finishing with four rebounds and two points.

Walker-Kimbrough commented on her transition from college play to the WNBA.

“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment – definitely the physicality,” she said. “But this team is great. The veterans are great just in helping me adjust. The coaches are great as well. The adjustment has been a bit of a journey but I definitely feel like I am getting better each and every day.”

The Lynx scored 25 points off of the 20 turnovers the Mystics committed and scored 38 points in the paint. Washington lost control of their steady first half offense throughout the third period. Minnesota outscored them 23-8 in that quarter to help them in the 15-point win.

Veteran forward Rebekkah Brunson led the Lynx with 14 points and seven rebounds. Center Sylvia Fowles and forward Natasha Howard were also in double figures with 11 points each. Fowles pulled down five rebounds while Howard snatched six.

“This game, I think we learned a lot playing against a great team like Minnesota,” Hawkins said.“They pressured us a lot and took us out of our comfort zone. I think we look back and see what we can do a lot better to be a better team.

The Lynx were playing with most of their veteran stars although backup forward Plenette Pierson did not travel with the team as she is recovering from a concussion sustained during practice last Wednesday. Starting forward Maya Moore was with the team but did not dress due to a groin injury. Rookie forward Chantel Osahor did not see any minutes in the game.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is glad that the core of her team has stayed the same over the last couple of seasons and that they all attended training camp. Minnesota finished preseason 2-0.

“I think we’re in a good space as a group,” Reeve said. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had fairly decent health….I think they’re ready to play. Obviously Maya wasn’t out there. It’s a group that’s had a great training camp, they were all there on time, so we’ve gotten a lot of work done.”

Reeve was pleased at the level of competition from the Mystics.

“That’s why I like coming here during the preseason, we know we’re going to be challenged in every way,” Reeve said. “It’s just a tremendous learning experience playing against these guys. They’re obviously well coached and have a ton of talent, so I think it’s going to be an exciting summer in D.C.”

Mystics veteran Delle Donne did not play due to a minor ailment while Meesseman and Toliver are still overseas. Thibault said he looks forward to a more steady rhythm throughout his team with his returning usual veterans and building chemistry after the roster cuts that are due Friday.

“I think that we change as we get to the weekend too when we have the group that will play together,” he said, “We’ll get a better rhythm through practice.”

The Mystics look forward to their 20th season opener on Mother’s Day, May 14, at 3 p.m. ET against the San Antonio Stars. Minnesota opens their regular season on the same day hosting the Chicago Sky.

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