Riding high from the return of Seimone Augustus and their subsequent two game winning steak, the Lynx came crashing down to earth Sunday afternoon. At 17-7 the Mystics sit atop the league standings and appear to be a shoe-in for the WNBA Finals.
Their offense is the primary reason for their dominance. They’ve been number one in offensive rating all season and it isn’t particularly close. Washington head coach Mike Thibault has paired his roster with an offensive scheme that is truly special. They lead the league in three pointers attempted per game and percentage of points generated from beyond the arc. Almost every single Mystics player can pass, dribble and shoot. Of course everything is unlocked by the brilliance of Elena Delle Donne who can score from everywhere on the floor. Washington is really good at putting the ball in the hole.
Each team was missing a starter in this one. For Washington they sat point guard Kristi Toliver due to a sore knee. Minnesota was without Damiris Dantas as her calf is bothering her yet again. The Lynx missed Dantas more than Washington missed Toliver. The Mystics have so much firepower up and down their roster, they can get by without the deep threat of Toliver.
On the other hand, Minnesota’s interior defense is noticeably better when Dantas is on the floor. Also she’s an adept pick and roll defender who can efficiently help and recover on shooters. This is extra important against a team like Washington. Hopefully the idea was to have her ready for the much more win-able game Tuesday in New York.
After a closely contested first few minutes, the Mystics closed the first quarter on a 16-7 run and essentially didn’t look back. The game was never out of hand but the Lynx couldn’t string together enough stops to eat into Washington’s consistent double-digit lead. The Lynx simply could not defend without fouling. Washington shot 29 free throws on Sunday. That’s a season-high for a Lynx opponent this season. The Mystics shot at least six free throws in each of the game’s four quarters. They lived at the line.
Entering the fourth up 12 points, Washington put the game away by scoring the quarter’s first six points pushing their lead to 18. In the end the Mystics hung 101 on Minnesota, that’s the most points allowed by the Lynx in over two years. If they don’t defend, Minnesota won’t win. Especially against the best team in the league.
Augustus is back! She looks pretty good so far in her first three games of the season. She’s bailed the Lynx offense out on a number of occasions with her ability to create something out of nothing. Despite her three turnovers in this game she’s a a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. Until she leaves the game she’ll be able to score in bunches. Minnesota’s offense needs it in the worst way.
Temi Fagbenle had a nice game. She can hit that little elbow midrange jumper when the defense helps off her and she also has a number of nice post moves to deploy. Fagbenle had 12 points and two blocked shots in 21 minutes.
Sylvia Fowles was a non-factor offensively. Give credit to Washington for making things tough for Fowles down low. Syl hardly touched the ball at all in this game. She finished with three points on four shot attempts and zero free throw attempts. She is easily the team’s best player. The offense must flow through her.
Emma Meessemen led all scorers with 25 points. The mix-and-match possibilities with Delle Donne, Meessemen and LaToya Sanders is really interesting. Meessemen’s consistency, or lack thereof, is the key.
Aerial Powers filled in for Toliver in the Mystics starting lineup and proceeded to score 20 points on 10 shot attempts. Sheesh Washington, what an embarrassment of riches.
On Tuesday Minnesota faces off against The New York Liberty at the embarrassing Westchester County Center. Tip off is set for 6pm CT.
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