I didn't watch this game live, and I didn't know the score until I got home at around 11 p.m. ET. But I'm not surprised the Washington Mystics lost to the Phoenix Mercury, 81-66.
Though both teams were tied at halftime, the Mercury started the third quarter on a 10-0 run, which spelled their fate. Another notable thing was that the entire starting lineup in the second half was benched with 5:45 left in the third. Brittney Griner scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half, while Diana Taurasi had a double double with 16 points and 10 assists. For the Mystics, Emma Meesseman had a nice night, where she scored 14 points.
In a post game press conference which you can see above (or click here), Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault said that "it's kind of gonna be a broken record some nights about trying to grow up," given that he is playing six rookies and sophomores extended minutes. And on top of that, none of the active rookies and sophomores are lottery draft picks, let alone #1 or #2 overall selections.
I get that the Mystics now have a losing record at 4-5, and it could make some fans feel pretty disappointed. And on the surface, you could even question me for some very optimistic pieces I wrote on the team last week about their youth movement, and suggesting that Mike Thibault could be a 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year candidate.
I'll speak to the latter point first. I wrote the Coach of the Year candidates post before the Mystics lost three straight games. Even if they didn't, my first choice is still Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx at this time because of the season they had so far. The Mystics still haven't even played a third of the season yet, so there is still time for them to turn things around as the rookies and sophomores continue to develop.
As to the first point, I stand by everything I said. The Mystics are doing exactly what they should be doing when you look at the long term picture. Though making the playoffs in 2014 certainly can be a goal that this Mystics team can accomplish, we still have to point this out. Because their team is so young (with those young players playing minutes of course), there will be growing pains.
When you also consider the fact that they don't have a superstar, and that only one player was a Top-3 pick in the WNBA Draft (Monique Currie), you also have to accept that they're going to lose a number of games. This is because they're going to be outmanned in many of their games this season.
Phoenix has one of the most talented starting lineups in the WNBA with Diana Taurasi as their lead guard and sophomore center Brittney Griner is now starting to look like the superstar that many hoped she would have been last year. DeWanna Bonner and Penny Taylor are two additional All-Star caliber veterans for them. So yeah, I'm not too surprised that the Mystics' starters especially will have a lot of trouble against them.
So, to wrap up this post, I leave you with this. The primary criteria that we should use to evaluate the Washington Mystics and Mike Thibault's performance in the 2014 season should not be based on how many wins they get, and whether they make the playoffs. Instead, we should evaluate their performance based on how well the younger players are performing over the course of the season, and how much the veterans are helping facilitate that.