Entering the 2017 season the Washington Mystics seemed like a lock to vault into the WNBA’s elite. With an offseason roster shakeup headlined by the additions of perennial All-Star Elena Delle Donne and veteran sharpshooter Kristi Toliver, Washington made moves to become contenders.
Unfortunately their regular season was a choppy and inconsistent. Two of their three best players Emma Meesseman (Eurobasket) and Delle Donne (thumb injury) missed entire weeks of the summer. On paper this team is as talented and loaded as any in the league, in reality, they never really had an opportunity to build an identity or any sort of momentum.
The promise of this team was supposed to revolve around a uptempo spread offense with three point shooting at nearly every position. Instead the Mystics dropped from fourth to tenth in 3P% from 2016 to 2017. While they did lead the league in 3PA per game with 21.5, and were second in percentage of points from 3PT with 25, their three markswomen (Delle Donne, Meesseman and Toliver) all took meaningful steps back in long range shooting percentage this season.
Washington is entirely healthy (except for Minneapolis native Tayler Hill who is out for the season with an ACL tear) just in time for the playoffs. On Sunday night Toliver had a season high 32 points with a career high nine made three pointers as the Mystics stunned a New York Liberty team who closed the WNBA season winning 10 games in a row. The win advances the Mystics into the semifinals where the number one overall seed Lynx await.
Minnesota would be heavy favorites in any of the three potential semifinal matchups, but Washington represents the best case scenario for the Lynx and their fans. The Mystics field an impressive lineup of seasoned veterans, but they are an average-at-best defensive team that is wildly inconsistent on offense. Furthermore, Minnesota’s front court rotation are the perfect antidote to Washington’s dynamic bigs. Look for Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson to each have a fantastic two-way series.
Areas that could give the Lynx problems are mostly not related to their opponent. The return of Lindsay Whalen to the team after six weeks away could be awkward. It might take awhile before we see the team that had a 20-2 record before Whalen broke her finger. Also the relocation of the team’s home gym to the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena is a non-trivial transition that might be a brief issue.
The equation for the Lynx against the Mystics is simple. Contain the three point line, slow the pace of the game and play efficient offense. Minnesota will be tested in the postseason, but it won’t be in this series.
Prediction: Lynx in 3.