Led by Myisha Hines-Allen, Mystics bench combines for 58 points to help take down the Lynx, 90-78
Mystics bench erupts to lead charge vs. the Lynx
"I don't play an individual sport, I play a team sport" #TogetherDC@Mooks_22 looked like a vet out there, grabbing her first career double-double over the reigning @WNBA champs. #MysticsLynx #SticsSZN pic.twitter.com/xWeZdTmvrY
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) May 27, 2018
WASHINGTON — Potential isn’t quite the word to describe the Washington Mystics’ young, rookie-led bench. It would mean they haven’t pulled their weight when their name is called. It would mean they have more to prove to head coach Mike Thibault and teammates. Their combined historic 58-point performance against the Minnesota Lynx Sunday afternoon is not potential. It’s presence.
After a week of gutsy bench performances for the fresh players, Washington’s young stars Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins are making the most of their minutes, fearlessly performing and dissolving first-year jitters early.
A collective standout performance from the younger second unit helped the Mystics complete a 90-78 statement win against the Minnesota Lynx, reaching a franchise-first 4-0 start.
“I cannot even say enough about our young players and our bench just the contributions we had,” Thibault said on the win. “They played like veterans and that was as good as we played all year and probably as good as we have played in a long time just as a group for nine or 10 people. We will take it.”
The Lynx maximized on the Mystics’ opening quarter woes as Minnesota rolled to a 26-11 first quarter lead. Lynx center Sylvia Fowles began her dominant game early on. She ended the first quarter going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and collecting 13 points and five rebounds.
“I did most of my work early,” Fowles said. “Then they started throwing two-to-three people at me after that. I got some good looks early on, but after that it was pretty hard.”
The Mystics desperately needed an answer to fill game plan farces the Lynx enforced. Veteran guard Kristi Toliver led Washington with five points with forward Elena Delle Donne behind her with four.
Washington was shooting just 25 percent in the opening quarter, comparing to Minnesota’s 61 percent, sinking 11 of 18 attempted shots.
Washington’s second unit hit the ground running in the second period, folding the double-digit deficit into an eventual lead. The rookies show no hesitation to impose their will on the game and making an immediate impact in dire situations.
The home team’s shooting percentage rose from 25 to 48 percent in the second quarter while they played with distinctive confidence and chemistry adjusting to Minnesota’s championship standard.
With veterans Natasha Cloud and Tianna Hawkins leading the younger set, Hines Allen, Atkins and Walker-Kimbrough were able to produce meaningful minutes and turn things around.
Walker-Kimbrough led the second unit of Mystics to close in on the 18-point gap. Showcasing her thrilling shooting, she drained jumpers in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Rookie Atkins’ quick shooting and defensive precision positioned her to collect team-high 11 points while Walker-Kimbrough was not far behind with nine.
The Mystics fought through their 18-point dilemma managing to lead the Lynx 46-39 before halftime. The ultimate test came when regular safety net Delle Donne left the game in the second quarter, finishing with just four points in 13 minutes. She was dehydrated and suffering from a stomach bug.
Lynx star forward Maya Moore quickly assimilated to Washington’s second unit after the half. She sunk 10 points in the third quarter to help the Lynx close the deficit and lead 68-66 heading into the last period.
A smothering defense helped the Mystics outscore the Lynx 24-10 in the final quarter. Guard Kristi Toliver finished with 19 points, going 5-of-8 from the field. Hines-Allen added a double-double of 15 points plus 13 points while Atkins and Cloud had 14 points each. Cloud also added 8 assists.
Moore led the Lynx with 18 while Fowles added 17 plus 8 rebounds.
Toliver said the bench’s impact helped her shoot the ball too. With a balance of rambunctious rookies and veterans, the sky is the limit for the Mystics.
“It’s fun when we’re just getting great effort plays from all over the place,” Toliver said. “It’s fun when we’re getting stops and we’re getting our assignments on the defensive end, that’s when basketball is fun. Then on the offensive end, you can just play and make plays and that’s what we do best.”
While the Lynx bench combined for 24 points, the Mystics’ bench finished with a historic 58-point performance.
Hines-Allen led the rookies in her breakout performance that foreshadowed a bright future. She typically serves as the defensive staple of the second unit. Battling against Fowles, Hines-Allen showed perseverance and mobility to slow down the powerhouse forward. Once she entered the game, she helped trap Fowles to her 13 points in the first quarter. Fowles only contributed four more points throughout the game. She was also suffering from a sore right ankle after landing in an awkward manner in the second quarter.
“It was hard,” Hines-Allen said on defending Fowles. “She is the reigning MVP, so it was just like just focus on her. Do not worry about anything else. Just focus on her, keep finding the body, put on a body on her because she is just so big, so strong. She is a great player and I just tried to find her every time.”
Hines-Allen made a statement with her first double-double. In addition, she earned a block that made 5,723-count crowd erupt as seconds wound down in the 90-78 win.
“It felt good to play how I normally because in college I was so used to getting a double-double so it was like, when is it going to happen,” Hines-Allen said on her performance. “This was a great game to come out and do it in.”
Battling against the defending champions was no easy task. Rookie tenacity and confidence from Washington’s reserves made slaying the ferocious beast a victorious battle. Having a rookie team to impose their will makes Thibault reconsider the lineup, especially with the circumstances of injury and sickness invading the Mystic locker room.
“Certainly we have to consider it,” Thibault said on the lineups. “Now we have to come up with a new rotation and learn how to balance it.”
The Mystics will begin a three-game road trip on May 29 at the Seattle Storm then make their way to Arizona for a matchup with the Phoenix Mercury and finish in Las Vegas against the Aces. Washington returns home to host the Connecticut Sun on June 3.
The Mystics is now 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
“Those are in the bank,” Thibault said on the franchise wins. “At the end of the year, they do not care when you got them, how you got them, it is just that you got them so 4-0 gives us the start that most people would die for, so we will take it.”
- Points in the Paint: Lynx: 40 Mystics: 28
- 2nd Chance Points: Lynx: 7 Mystics: 17
- Fastbreak Points: Lynx: 12 Mystics: 10
- Biggest Lead: Lynx: 18 Mystics: 15
- Attendance: 5,723