Mystics clip Wings 93-80 to extend streak, Dallas fires coach postgame
WASHINGTON – The Washington Mystics (20-11) secured their sixth straight win after defeating the Dallas Wings 93-80 in front of 6,362 fans at Capital One Arena Sunday afternoon. The Wings (14-17) are on an eight-game skid and suffered another blow postgame as the franchise’s president and CEO Greg Bibb fired the team’s head coach Fred Williams Sunday night.
The team’s statement on the termination: “The Dallas Wings announces this evening that Fred Williams has been relieved of his duties effective immediately. Assistant Coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and the organization will conduct a full search for a permanent head coach immediately following the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.”
Various members of the media witnessed an altercation between Bibb and Williams postgame. The two men had to be held back from each other. Williams was visibly angry postgame and went on a profanity-laced rant that could be overhead by media and staff.
Another 20-win Season For Washington
The victory for the Mystics clinched the team’s second 20-win season in franchise history.
“We’ll take the win,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “It got a little sloppy in the third quarter to [Dallas’] credit, they’ve a big post who shoots and stepped out to make ‘em. We got our composure back in the last minutes and finished the game.”
Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver delivered a political statement before the game, bringing attention to the Unite the Rally organized by white supremacists that took place in Washington the same day.
She continued her presence on the court for nine first-quarter points. Dallas forward Azurá Stevens stopped Washington’s run with five straight points. Other Wings had trouble scoring, prompting Stevens take control. A handful of sloppy exchanges for Washington stumped their hot start.
“She’s only a rookie and has to get stronger defensively,” coach Williams said regarding Stevens. “I look for her game by game. She steps on the court and gets better and better.”
Emerging defense from Dallas helped create tempo and rhythm that allowed efficient looks for Stevens. She continued to keep her team in range, scoring 13 points to help the Wings tie the game at 20 at the end of the first quarter.
Washington forward Elena Delle Donne had a lights-out performance from beyond the arc, contributing 13 second-quarter points. Toliver reentered the game to dish out six assists. Washington led 51-37 at halftime.
Dallas managed to snatch the momentum from Washington after the break, getting three other players into double-digits. Forward Theresa Plaisance and guard Skylar Diggins-Smith stepped up for the Wings in the third quarter. Washington rookie Ariel Atkins led the charge to push back against Dallas. She led the Mystics with 23 points entering the final quarter.
The Wings continued their uphill battle, but Washington’s defense intensified while Atkins continued to lead offensively. Atkins’ career-high performance was cut short after she hit the floor while going up for a rebound. She contributed 26 points and five rebounds before exiting with four minutes remaining.
“I hope she’s okay physically,” Thibault said about Atkins. “She basically landed on her hip so we won’t know right away.”
Dallas center Liz Cambage did not see action as she is day-to-day with a neck injury. She did warm up with the team.
The Wings are still fighting for the eighth and final postseason spot against the Las Vegas Aces. With the loss, the Aces are now one game behind Dallas. Both teams have three games remaining on their regular season schedules, including an August 17 meeting against one another in Dallas. The Wings’ magic number to eliminate the Aces is still two—any combination of two Dallas’ wins or Las Vegas’ losses ends the Aces’ season.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” Williams said. “When in a drought we have some emotional things going on. We have to let things go and regroup. We have to find a way to get a W. We have a few more games to play and the main things is getting into the [postseason].”
It will be up to McWilliams-Franklin as interim coach to guide the Wings as their playoff chances hang in the balance.
- Ariel Atkins recorded her career-high 26 points
- Points in the Paint: Dallas: 28 Washington: 26
- 2nd Chance Points: Dallas: 20 Washington: 10
- Fast Break Points: Dallas: 2 Washington: 11
- Biggest Lead: Washington: 24 Dallas: 3