by Renee Washington
The last couple of weeks have not gone as planned for the Mystics. After knocking off the previously #1 team in the WNBA, the Connecticut Sun, Head Coach Mike Thibault and his Mystics hit a slump since leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne broke her nose versus the Sparks on July 7. Let’s recap what we have seen since the June 29th, 43 point win over the Sun.
The following game in Las Vegas, the Mystics had a 15 point lead going into halftime. Until the game was abruptly stopped due to an earthquake that shook the city, the Mystics were still in peak form. Unfortunately, the game was not completed and has been postponed.
However, in the next game, a lot changed. The Los Angeles Sparks snapped the Mystics five-game winning streak behind Nneka Ogwumike’s game-high 31 points. The biggest game-changer, was when Elena Delle Donne went down in the opening minute after taking a shoulder to the nose. She did not return to the game and the Mystics dropped the 17 point road loss.
Next game was just as tough returning home to face Phoenix. The Mercury have played without their star player Diana Taurasi all season as she has been out with a back injury. For the Mystics, they still struggled offensively without Delle Donne as only two players (Tianna Hawkins 24p and Ariel Atkins 14p) finished in double digits. Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner combined for nearly 50 points to lead Phoenix past Washington by 23.
The team that once held the best offensive efficiency rating in the league, averaging 111.3 points per 100 possessions, has had three straight games of 81 points or less since Delle Donne went down.
However, there are a few positives in all of this. The last time Washington hit the court they dropped a four-point loss to the new top team in the league, the Las Vegas Aces. Natasha Cloud had a game-high 18 points as five different Mystics finished in double figures, including a double-double by center LaToya Sanders (11p, 10r).
As a team with the talent to reach the WNBA Finals again, this “slump” may just be an opportunity for the Mystics to get some other players big minutes, see who else can step up offensively, and prepare for any adversity down the line.
As mentioned following their four-game road stretch in June, that at the time, was an obstacle they had to figure out how to overcome. Who’s to say a month from now, Thibault and the Mystics won’t look back at the stretch without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne feeling that this also prepared them for the postseason.
Only time will tell. After all, despite dropping three straight games in six days, Washington is still #2 in the Eastern Conference with the third-best winning percentage in the league.
Next up, the Mystics travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take on the Indiana Fever Friday night at 7 pm ET.