Something was present in the Washington Mystics’ game last night that wasn’t there on Friday.
Both games were against worthy, Western conference opponents, and both games resulted in a win for Washington (19-12). Sunday’s game, however, came not as a result of some last minute bucket from an unflappable veteran, but of consistent, poised, quality play from all of the players who took the court.
What’s more, the win came against the Seattle Storm (25-6), who despite some late-season losses, still hold the best record in the league.
There was a crowd of 9,000+ on hand at the Verizon Center to cheer the Mystics to their 19th victory, now the most wins in franchise history. Thankfully, the crowd had plenty of reason to cheer, as their beloved players were diving for loose balls, wrestling for rebounds and keeping pace with Seattle’s starters, who very few expected to see as much playing time as they did.
After their seemingly half-hearted loss against Connecticut, there was speculation that Storm coach Brian Agler might be resting his stars before the playoffs. Mystics head coach Julie Plank wasn’t fooled, saying afterward, "They are a deep team, they’re big, they’re well coached and…we were expecting them to play." Nor was Washington standout Crystal Langhorne so sure the Storm would take it easy. With her 15 points and 7 rebounds, she had a feeling Seattle would show up. She said after the game, "We didn’t know what to expect, but they didn’t play against Connecticut so I was just like, ‘I don’t think they’ll do that two games in a row’".
Aiding Langhorne in the Washington victory was Most Improved Player contender Monique Currie, who definitely improved on her previous game. After scoring just 4 points against Minnesota, Currie lead all scorers with 25 points and added 3 steals, 3 assists and a blocked shot against Seattle. She was 5 of 7 from three-point range.
The most obvious difference from the last game to this one was ball handling. The Mystics, who coughed the ball up 23 times against the Lynx on Friday, managed to protect it much better against the Storm. They only turned it over 10 times and only allowed 4 points off of those turnovers. Neither of the starting guards Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding committed a single turnover, and they contributed 9 and 13 points respectively.
Looking forward, the Mystics know they have a tough road ahead of them. They will rest Monday morning and then travel to San Antonio where they play on Tuesday. Coach Plank noted, "San Antonio is gonna be another challenge. They beat us here at home…and they’re fighting for a playoff spot." Beyond that, the Mystics host New York on Friday, who they could very well face in the first round of the playoffs.
Smith gave an idea of the team’s mentality going into the final stretch of the regular season: "You wanna win, but you also wanna set the tone for how it’s gonna be in the playoffs." With Connecticut’s loss to Indiana Sunday, the Mystics have clinched their spot in the post season. What seed they finish in wont be determined until the very last moment, as they play Atlanta in their final road game on August 22nd. For now, the East is anybody’s conference to take.