Mystics fight off injury bug for 101-78 win over Lynx
Emma Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne pace Mystics over Lynx
WASHINGTON D.C. – A shorthanded Washington Mystics bested the Minnesota Lynx 101-78 Sunday afternoon at Entertainment and Sports Arena.
“I told our team this is the perfect example of when you need an entire team during the season,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “You know, some people who haven’t been playing much. We needed them today and they were ready.”
Rookie guard Kiara Leslie hasn’t seen the floor this season while recovering from right knee surgery. Active forward Tianna Hawkins sat to rest, but the most sudden inactive announcement was guard Kristi Toliver. She didn’t play due to a right knee injury sustained against the Indiana Fever August 11. Forward Aerial Powers filled Toliver’s role.
“Twenty minutes before the game I knew,” Powers said. “Coach [Thibault] talked to us right before we go out.”
The injuries left nine players available for Washington’s matchup against a Minnesota team that welcomed guard Seimone Augustus back after right knee injury August 6. Thibault dug into his lineup, playing eight of the nine available players in the first quarter after the Lynx jumped out to a 9-5 lead.
“I thought that our pick and roll defense, our help side and penetration was pretty good.” Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said of the start.
Perimeter shooting became an important aspect of Washington’s offense as Minnesota’s center Sylvia Fowles and Augustus occupied the paint. The Mystics shot 3-of-3 three pointers, going 71 percent from the floor for a 27-19 first quarter lead.
Injury flustered Washington again. Guard Ariel Atkins ran into Fowles’ screen, attempted to stop a Lynx buzzer beater with eight seconds before halftime. Fowles was called for a common foul while Atkins was assisted to the locker room for medical evaluation. Washington lead Minnesota 51-41 at halftime.
Just eight players were available after Atkins did not return following the game intermission, but the Mystics continued. Washington’s defensive performance gave the Mystics the upper hand in the second half. The Mystics outscored the Lynx 29-18 in the final quarter, sealing a 101-78 win and the top spot in the league.
Everything is clicking at the right time for the Mystics. Though shorthanded, Delle Donne, Powers, and Meesseman drove the offense combining for 68 of the 101 points. Scoring is the apparent advantage of the bigger lineup, as opponents cannot defend all three of Washington’s players each possession.
“It seems like there’s always a mix-match,” Delle Donne said of the lineup. “There’s going to be a guard on one of us. When there is, we just go in and exploit it until they have to change something.”
One constant option for the Mystics is Delle Donne, but Meesseman is emerging as Washington’s second leading scorer. The game marked her seventh 20+ outing. She scored 25 points. Powers finished the game with 20 points and five rebounds.
“It’s hard for them to play defense,” Meesseman said. “We read them really well, so I just think the main thing is we have to take those open shots and find a player that’s hot at that moment.”
Minnesota guard Odyssey Sims finished with a team-high 20 points and eight assists and rookie forward Napheesa Collier contributed 11 points and six rebounds. Guard Temi Fagbenle scored 12 points in the loss. Reeve attributed the Mystics’ big win to the Lynx’s inability to guard the post, allowing Washington to score 36 points in the paint.
Washington continues their homestand welcoming the Seattle Storm August 13. Seattle continues their East Coast road trip visiting the New York Liberty the same day.
- Points in the Paint: Lynx 36, Mystics 36
- Second Chance Points: Lynx 7, Mystics 16
- Fastbreak Points: Lynx 6, Mystics 2
- Biggest Lead: Lynx 5, Mystics 23
- Lead Changes: 4
- Times Tied: 1
- Attendance: 4,200 (Sellout)