The Washington Mystics had been in a celebratory state in the 48 hours leading up to Saturday’s Game 2 of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta. The team won the series opener, its first playoff victory since 2004, and Washington Mike Thibault was named the WNBA Coach of the Year earlier Saturday, earning him an ovation before Game 2 at Verizon Center.
Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry took over the show from there. Pushing through foul trouble and cold shooting by her standards, McCoughtry finished with 20 points and five rebounds and set the tone for the Dream, who never trailed in a 63-45 win over the Mystics to even the best-of-three series at a game apiece.
Game 3 will be played Monday night in Atlanta, with the winner advancing to the conference finals to meet the Chicago-Indiana winner. The Fever leads that series 1-0, with Game 2 to be played Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
“They outworked us tonight, and it showed,” said Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne, who was held scoreless after registering a double-double (12 points, 15 rebounds) in Game 1.
In one of the team’s worst performances of the season, Washington shot just 14 for 56 from the field (25 percent) and was outrebounded 53-30. The Mystics trailed 36-21 at intermission.
“That’s the worst offensively we’ve played all year,” Thibault said. “They killed us on the boards. We embarrassed them on the boards the other night. They turned it around tonight.”
Washington went scoreless through the first five minutes of the first quarter, and McCoughtry — one of the league’s best players — scored 11 points in the frame with a combination of pull-up jumpers and strong drives.
Washington trailed by as many as 18 in the third quarter but cut the Dream’s lead to 10 after going on a 6-0 run to end the third quarter. McCoughtry picked up her fifth foul to open the fourth — but Washington never got below a double-digit deficit in the final 10 minutes, and McCoughtry dropped seven of her 20 points to put the win on ice. She fouled out in the waning moments and blew a kiss to the Verizon Center hecklers.
She finished just 6 for 23 from the field but still scored 20 points for the second straight game and “set the tone” defensively, according to Dream Coach Fred Williams. Atlanta’s Erika DeSouza added 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Aneika Henry chipped in 10 points. Washington reserve guard Tayler Hill was the lone Mystics player in double figures scoring with 11.
“We wanted to come out with a mind-set that we were going to come out aggressive,” McCoughtry said, “and not let them stomp on us like last game.”
Just hours after he was presented with his third WNBA Coach of the Year trophy, Thibault looked perplexed by his team’s shooting and rebounding struggles Saturday night. As the final buzzer sounded, he walked up to Williams, shaking his head in disbelief. Thibault shook his hand and muttered three words.
“See you Monday,” he said.