In a season in which Thibault has fielded a full team for exactly two days — one practice and one game — Saturday night’s patchwork lineup with three players on minutes limits (Charles, Plaisance and Erica McCall) seemed painfully familiar. So did the result. Needing a win to boost their playoff chances, the Mystics lost, 93-75, to the Minnesota Lynx, digging a 23-point hole before rallying and ultimately coming up well short.
Charles had 12 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes for the Mystics (10-17), who lost for the 11th time in 14 games to drop into a virtual tie with New York for the eighth and final playoff spot. A challenging two-city trip continues for the Mystics on Tuesday night in Seattle.
The Lynx came in banged up as well, missing starters Layshia Clarendon (stress reaction, right tibia) and Damiris Dantas (Lisfranc injury, right foot). But Minnesota (18-9), winner of five straight and 13 of 15, still brought plenty of offense with Napheesa Collier (21 points, nine rebounds), Sylvia Fowles (12 points) and former Mystic Aerial Powers, who scored 20 coming off the bench.
“I offered [Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve] a minutes limit on Sylvia to see if we could match up, but I couldn’t quite sell that one,” Thibault said.
A 27-4 run by the Lynx, beginning late in the first quarter and carrying well into the second, saw Minnesota jump ahead 44-23. Three-pointers by Kayla McBride and Rachel Banham got the Lynx going, with the Mystics shooting 1 for 12 and committing four turnovers over the next seven-plus minutes.
An Ariel Atkins jumper ended the Mystics’ scoring drought, but Powers came back with two foul shots and a layup to make it 48-25 with 2:33 left in the half.
The Mystics responded with a 21-4 run of their own, closing to 50-35 at halftime and 52-46 3½ minutes into the third quarter. The Mystics cut the deficit to two points late in the quarter before the Lynx recovered. Jumpers by Banham, Collier and Powers early in the fourth quarter pushed Minnesota’s lead to 72-62, and the Lynx rolled from there.
The return of WNBA scoring leader Charles provided a badly needed boost for the Mystics as they try to avoid missing the playoffs for only the second time in Thibault’s nine seasons. The Mystics began the night alone in eighth, benefiting from ill-timed losing streaks by New York (six games) and Los Angeles (five).
“Given everything we have,” Thibault said, “even Tina at not 100 percent is a big plus for us, having her back out on the floor.”
Still, without Delle Donne and Hines-Allen, the Mystics struggled to score and defend. Thibault said he has never had to deal with so many injuries and so much lineup uncertainty.
“Some days you just laugh about it,” Thibault said. “This is typical of our season. It’s just the way everything has been. It’s like real life. Stuff gets thrown at you, and it’s how you handle it. You can moan and groan about it, but it doesn’t change anything. Just go about your business, try to do the best you can and see what happens.”
The Mystics’ trip to Minnesota began Friday with the team visiting George Floyd Square, the intersection where Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. Guard Sydney Wiese, who is White, said she felt a mix of sadness, embarrassment and anger as she stood among the memorials, flowers and artwork.
“As an organization, it was important to make a trip there,” Wiese said. “It’s tough to put into words just how powerful it was to be in those places. For me, I just thought of the moment that took place there and then the moments that followed across the country and across the world.”