The Mystics were coming off their biggest win of the season when they faced the Connecticut Sun Sunday afternoon, but they needed another victory pretty badly. They didn't know at the time of their game that the Liberty would upset the Dream later in the day, but they know that in general there is not a lot of room for error as this season winds down.
The Mystics defeated the Sun, 74-63, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. to improve to 11-13 and remain a half a game ahead of New York for the last playoff spot in the East. Mike Thibault improved to 2-0 against Connecticut this season, the only season in the Sun's history where he hasn't been their head coach.
"I didn't have any emotions about playing Connecticut," Thibault said. "It was more about playing a team that's chasing us in the playoff race. I felt the same way as I did when we played New York the other day...We're just trying to survive in the playoff race."
"As soon as [Coach] got in this locker room he said 'this is just another game,'" said Mystic guard Ivory Latta. "So we treated it as another game, but it was a must win."
The first quarter was impressive for Washington. They outscored the Sun 23-7 and held them to 3-19 shooting from the field. Also, 2012 MVP Tina Charles was held scoreless.
The Mystics went on to lead 38-23 at the break and 58-46 after three quarters. However, a 13-2 run by the Sun in the fourth cut the lead to just four with 4:22 remaining in the game. This led to an ending that was a bit more tense than Washington would have liked, but a Latta 3-pointer at 45 seconds remaining put the Mystics up by eight and all but put the game away.
"Typical of most pro games, there are runs," Thibault said. "We needed to have the last one, which we did. I thought we had enough energy left with our starters when they came back in to get the last run."
Crystal Langhorne led Washington in scoring for the third time in four games with 18. She has averaged 18.8 points in the past four games after averaging 6.5 in the previous six. Langhorne said that during that time she has been talking to Thibault about being more "decisive with [her] game."
Michelle Snow nearly had her first double-double of the season with nine points and 10 rebounds. Langhorne also came close to a double-double with nine rebounds. Monique Currie added 12 points and 7 boards and Latta was good for 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. In addition, Tayler Hill made a solid contribution with nine points off of a 2-3 effort from beyond the arc and Matee Ajavon dished out eight assists.
Despite not scoring until 4:11 in the second quarter, Charles finished with the game's only double-double (18 points and 12 rebounds) thanks to 10 points in the third alone. Kelsey Griffin added 17 and eight and Allison Hightower had 10 points, four boards and five assists.
The Mystics will next travel to New York to take on the Liberty at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, before playing their final four games of August against either the Dream or Sky. It's not an easy path, but at least with 10 games left Washington is in a position to make a playoff push, unlike last year.
"I think we've put ourselves in a really good position," Langhorne said. "We have all East Coast teams left. So it really comes down what we do and how we play."
"We just gotta continue to do what's best for us and do what's gonna make us a better team," Latta said. "We can't concentrate too much on what other people are doing, we just gotta control our destiny. And I know we will, just continue to share the ball and play together as a team."