UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The mood in the Washington Mystics’ locker room early Sunday evening was as somber as it has been all season, with each player at her stall silently processing an 89-81 loss to the Connecticut Sun in double overtime that was difficult to absorb on several fronts.
First, the Mystics (15-16) missed an opportunity to become the second team in the Eastern Conference to secure a playoff berth. Adding to that discontent not only was a stumble against an opponent in last place in the East but a left ankle injury to guard Kara Lawson early in the fourth quarter that forced one of Washington’s top reserves out of the game for good.
“I don’t think we played very well tonight,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. “I thought they played very well, but it’s disappointing. They have [leading scorers Chiney] Ogwumike and Katie Douglas out at the end, and we can’t get enough stops to win the game. Rebounding, turnovers and free throws are how you become a great team, and we got beat in a couple of those categories tonight.”
After rallying from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Mystics were unable to escape with their third straight win when Kelsey Griffin sank a three-pointer with 2 minutes 18 seconds left in the second extra session for a 79-75 lead.
The fourth-year forward punctuated the basket by using her hands as pistols and holstering them, perhaps a slight nudge at Thibault, who spent 10 years with the Sun (12-20) and drafted Griffin four years ago.
Even before that sequence, Washington failed on multiple occasions to close out what would have been its second overtime win in four attempts this season. In regulation, the Mystics were ahead by two with 14 seconds to go but did not box out aggressively enough, allowing Griffin to gather an offensive rebound and tie the game as time expired. In the first overtime, rookie guard Bria Hartley committed a turnover during the closing seconds with the game tied.
Point guard Ivory Latta led the Mystics with a game-high 20 points with six assists and four rebounds but committed a costly turnover down the stretch. Forward Monique Currie added 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals but missed 1 of 2 foul shots that would have put Washington ahead by three points with 14 seconds left in regulation.
The Mystics also committed 15 of their 20 turnovers following halftime, with Hartley and Lawson each with four overall. While Hartley missed 10 of 12 shots, Lawson had 10 points on timely baskets until she rolled her ankle and collapsed underneath the Sun basket. She had to be helped off the court and watched the rest of the game with ice on her ankle. Her condition will be evaluated further Monday.
“Definitely a missed opportunity,” Currie said. “We could have clinched it, went back home and finished out the season, but I think what we can take away from this is that we didn’t give up. We continued to fight, but we have to not put ourselves in this situation and play harder and smarter.”
Despite this loss, Washington remains in control of the No. 2 seed heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Mystics are a game in front of third-place Indiana and play two of their final three at Verizon Center, aware one victory ensures them a second straight postseason appearance.
“We’ve definitely got to move forward,” Latta said. “There’s no need to be satisfied with that. One of our goals is to be the Eastern Conference champs, and we’ve just got to fight for it.”