The Washington Mystics started this abbreviated season with a three-game winning streak that grabbed the WNBA’s attention and appeared to announce their intentions to compete for a second consecutive title. That seems like ages ago.
“We set basketball back about 20 years today,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. “That was just terrible basketball. . . . We were awful. We didn’t make shots. We rushed things. Back to basketball fundamentals. We’re trying to play faster. We’re trying to learn how to play faster as a group. Running set plays in the halfcourt against their pressure was not the best way. We don’t know how to play fast yet the right way. We don’t know how to move the ball quickly side to side.
“We just can’t score right now.”
The end of quarters spelled doom for the Mystics. The Lynx finished the first quarter on a 12-2 run and the second quarter on a 16-0 run to take a 48-27 lead into halftime. Washington outscored Minnesota 17-4 in the third quarter to close the gap but were promptly outscored 16-4 in the fourth.
Washington’s offense has gone stagnant since it scored the third-most points in league history through the first three games of a season. The ball has stopped swinging from side-to-side, and shots have stopped falling. The Mystics shot 18 for 61 (29.5 percent) from the field and 4 for 19 (21.1 percent) from three-point range. Ariel Atkins hasn’t been as aggressive the past four games, ever since posting back-to-back 20-plus-point games. Emma Meesseman, the team’s top scoring option, took just nine shots and ended with 10 points and six rebounds. Myisha Hines-Allen scored a team-high 12 points.
“We’re athletes; we’re pissed off right now,” Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins said. “It’s just the situation. We’ve got to figure a lot of things out. I can’t even say ‘some’ things.”
Things weren’t any better on the defensive end in the first half, when the Lynx shot 55.9 percent from the field and made six three-pointers before cooling off after halftime. Sylvia Fowles gave the smaller Mystics all kinds of trouble inside and finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Crystal Dangerfield was dangerous from the outside with 12 points and four assists. When Washington did get stops, it failed to secure the rebound. Minnesota had seven offensive rebounds in each half, and it had 13 of its 17 second-chance points before halftime.
The Mystics found some life when the Lynx went cold in the third quarter. A straightaway buzzer-beating three by Hawkins cut Minnesota’s lead to 52-44 going into the fourth quarter, but that was as good as it got for the Mystics. Minnesota opened the final 10 minutes with a 10-0 run to end any hopes of a rally.
“It’s our defense that leads to our offense,” Hines-Allen said, “and we’re not having each other’s backs on the defensive end. I think that’s what causes us to get into these slumps.”
Notes: Mystics forward Aerial Powers missed her second consecutive game because of a hamstring strain. Washington’s leading scorer was averaging 16.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 34.6 percent from three-point range. Thibault said he is not counting on her for at least another week.
Hawkins started in her place as Thibault opted to go with a bigger lineup. She finished with 10 points and six rebounds.