With 26 losses in their first 31 games, the Washington Mystics have the inside track to finish with the worst record in the WNBA this season. The team enters the final week of the regular season in line to hold the best odds of winning the top pick in the league’s draft lottery later this month.
Currently on a 10-game losing streak, Washington’s limp to the finish won’t get any easier with several key players battling injuries, including top scorer Crystal Langhorne. The Mystics may need a patchwork lineup when they host the New York Liberty at Verizon Center on Sunday.
“It [stinks] to see them go down at the end of the season,” guard Jasmine Thomas said of her injured teammates. “They fought so hard all year long to go out at the end like that, but it gives some people some opportunities to come in and contribute to the team.”
Langhorne had been slowed by a left knee injury in recent games, and she left Friday’s 82-74 loss to Atlanta in the second quarter with a strained left foot. Veteran Michelle Snow largely filled the front-court void, finishing with eight points in 21 minutes off the bench. Afterward, Coach Trudi Lacey said Langhorne’s status for Sunday’s game remains uncertain.
Guard Noelle Quinn — a part-time starter this season — missed Friday’s game with a bruised shoulder, and guard Matee Ajavon (ankle) and center Ashley Robinson (calf) have also missed practice time in the past week.
With Quinn out and Monique Currie in foul trouble against the Dream, rookie guard Natalie Novosel claimed a spot in the rotation and logged 11 minutes, most of which came in the second half with the Mystics trying to protect a slim lead.
“This season has been disappointing,” Currie said, “but I think we’re going to finish, and right now, players can really show what they can do.”
New York (13-17) comes into Sunday’s contest battling Chicago (12-18) for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Liberty have won three of their four previous games against Washington this season.
Meanwhile, the Mystics (5-26) will need at least two wins in their final three games to catch Phoenix or Tulsa (both 7-23) and avoid the league’s worst record. Reigning player of the year Brittney Griner of Baylor is the likely prize for winning the draft lottery, which will be held on Sept. 26 in Bristol, Conn.