Washington head coach Mike Thibault came into tonight's game with 38 wins in his three-year stint with the Mystics, tied with Julie Plank for the most wins in franchise history.
The Mystics' effort made sure he wouldn't have to wait any longer to take sole possession of first place on that list, and a Washington victory was never truly in doubt as they beat the Chicago Sky 86-71.
The Mystics' defensive focus early was forcing the ball out of Elena Delle Donne's hands, sending double-teams to make her less of a scorer and more of a play-maker. The strategy's effectiveness was in question, as Delle Donne still had a 10-point first quarter while shooting 50%. Thankfully for Washington, Emma Meesseman provided the perfect answer to Delle Donne's scoring.
The third-year forward was automatic in the opening stages, scoring 10 points on a perfect 5/5 from the field in the opening 10 minutes. She would finish with 20 points for the night. Washington's frontcourt was effective as a unit, with center Stefanie Dolson scoring a career-high 19 points while also leading the team in rebounding with 10 boards.
The Mystics sealed the game in the third quarter, going on a 15-4 run, capitalized by Ivory Latta's three-point shot, which stretched the lead to twenty; they would lead by at least double digits for the rest of the game.
Chicago coach Pokey Chatman noted that though the Sky played better defense in the third, their lack of defensive effort in the first half gave Washington the confidence to let the ball fly, even when contested.
The Sky themselves were hampered all game by poor shooting; Chicago didn't connect on a three-pointer the entire contest, missing all eight of their attempts throughout the contest. By contrast, Washington's 10-19 performance from behind the line didn't make Chicago's dreams of a comeback any easier.
The Mystics defense certainly made it hard on Chicago, but Delle Donne took more note of her own team's defensive effort, saying, "Truthfully, it's the 86 points they scored that we are most upset about. Putting up 71, that's not too bad of a game, [but] unfortunately we weren't able to get stops, and that affects our offense a big amount."
The Mystics took advantage of Chicago's miscues, scoring 10-second chance points and 16 points off turnovers. Coach Thibault wasn't too quick to be impressed with his team's efforts on the boards, though, despite them outrebounding the Sky 37-24.
He told the team that "until we do it two or three times in a row, I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt yet. They've got to do a little bit better of a job for several games, and then, I'll be happy."
Delle Donne ended the game with 27 points, while Allie Quigley and Cappie Pondexter each pitched in with 10 of their own. This loss ended the Sky's three-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Washington will try to start their own streak of victories against the Fever on July 2nd. Indiana has lost their last two in a row, with the first loss in that pair coming against the Mystics on June 20th.