Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.
The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”
Blauch obliged, and Odyssey Sims made the foul shot for the Wings. Sims then sank two free throws stemming from a common foul seconds earlier, allowing Dallas to continue to extend the lead. So disjointed were the Mystics for much of the rest of the way that it was more than a modest accomplishment for them to be within reach in the final minutes.
But an inability to collect loose balls and critical rebounds — a deficiency that plagued the Mystics last season — doomed Washington down the stretch in an 87-77 loss in front of an announced crowd of 5,618. Washington lost its second game in a row by double digits and is 0-2 for the second time in three seasons.
“It’s our biggest downfall as a basketball team, [not] playing through plays all the way, [getting] loose balls, rebounds,” Thibault said. “We had a couple that the ball bounced on the floor, and we looked at each other, or we had somebody leaving thinking their teammate was going to get it. It’s not good enough. They’re talking about it, but talking is one thing. Doing it is another.”
Still, the Mystics got within 74-71 with 3 minutes 44 seconds to play on Emma Meesseman’s layup and two free throws from Tayler Hill, whose team-high 20 points for a second straight game matched the fourth-year guard’s career best. Dallas (2-1) countered with seven of the next nine points, including Australian guard Erin Phillips’s three-pointer.
Phillips’s shot with 3:24 left came moments after teammate Karima Christmas saved a ball from going out of bounds. Meesseman had a chance to make a play on the ball as well but stuck her arms in the air, assuming it would roll out bounds. Wings rookie guard Aerial Powers gained control following Christmas’s save and passed to an open Phillips.
“Starting with myself, I know we have to do it, and we have to fight for it,” Meesseman, who had 19 points, said of the lack of urgency on hustle plays. “Sometimes we just forget about it, we don’t do it, and that’s how they kept being in the game. We couldn’t get back because of those second-chance points. I know it’s our fault. It’s not Dallas who won the game. We lost it.”
Washington was able to whittle a 12-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to one possession late in the game despite a severely depleted roster. Point guard Ivory Latta, the Mystics’ leading scorer last year, continues to rehab from right knee surgery in the offseason, and starting forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt remains out with a sprained right ankle.
Backup forward Ally Malott is out roughly two weeks with a Grade 2 right arm sprain suffered in the opener, and reserve power forward LaToya Sanders is fulfilling obligations with the Turkish national team. Sanders, a naturalized Turkish citizen, is the Mystics’ top post defender and was second in the WNBA last season in blocks (2.3).
The Wings were without all-star point guard Skylar Diggins. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft has missed the first three games while recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and her status is day-to-day, according to Coach Fred Williams.
Sims led Dallas with a game-high 22 points, and Phillips had 16.
“It’s like we get a stop, or we make them take a tough shot, and we don’t finish the possession with a rebound,” Mystics guard Bria Hartley said. “Then they’re able to get a second chance, and they hit some shots when they got those second chances.”
● LYNX 97, SKY 80: Sylvia Fowles had 24 points and 13 rebounds in the first game against her former team, Maya Moore added 22 points and Minnesota beat Chicago in Rosemont, Ill.
● FEVER 97, MERCURY 93: Shenise Johnson had 16 points and seven assists to lead a balanced Indiana offense, and the Fever held off visiting Phoenix. Marissa Coleman (Maryland) made two free throws with nine seconds left to seal the win.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.