Both the Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics came into Sunday afternoon's game with a lot on the line. With the best record in the WNBA, the Lynx would look for a win to help them secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and Washington would look for a critical win to help them stand out in a packed Eastern Conference. Ultimately, Washington would come out on top. 77-69
Scoring for the Mystics was spread out, with Ivory Latta leading the way with 20 points from off the bench. Kara Lawson would add 15, and Stefanie Dolson would add 12. Washington 8 threes by five different players, but zero fast break points. LaToya Sanders remained a force on defense, recording all five of the Mystics blocks. The diverse play from the Mystics helped to seal the win, according to Latta.
"We shared the ball," she said. "I know especially for me, my teammates were giving me the confidence. They said ‘Ivory Keep shooting, keep shooting, we're going to feed off of what you do' and things like that. I mean I have to give all the credit to my post players, they were yelling my name down the court ‘We got you, we got you' so I'm like ‘alright.'
"They were setting great screens; they give me all the confidence in the world for sure."
For the Lynx, Sylvia Fowles would lead the charge with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Lindsay Whalen would chip in 13 and 11 boards, and Maya Moore would add 12 and nine boards.
The first quarter was fairly evenly matched offensively. Moore and Fowles would come out strong for Minnesota, combining for 14 of Minnesota's first 25 points. Washington's scoring was much more spread out to start the afternoon, but Emma Meesseman started off strong on offense, scoring six quick points.
Meesseman has been struggling offensively since the All-Star break. Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said that overall their play throughout the night was well-rounded.
"We played good defense, OK offense, good offense in the first half, not-so-great offense in the second half, but the defense kind of kept us in it," he said.
The game may have been evenly matched in the beginning, but Washington would go on a 15-2 run with just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter to secure a nine-point lead heading into the half. Dolson, Sanders, Meesseman, Lawson, Latta and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt all contributed key field goals during the Mystics run.
Minnesota would remain scoreless until the final four seconds of the quarter when Rebekkah Brunson would hit a four-foot jumper.
The third quarter was a bit slower offensively for both teams. A critical play for Washington was also an unfortunate one, when Meesseman suffered an injury her shooting hand when she was unable to get a hand on a post pass. She would not return for the remainder of the game.
Latta remained Washington's offensive leader despite coming off the bench, while Fowles and Seimone Augustus would attempt to right the ship for Minnesota. The final two minutes of the quarter would remain scoreless for both teams as Washington held on to their ten-point lead, 64-54.
Latta continued her dominance to start the fourth quarter, hitting a three-pointer and a jump shot to score Washington's first five points of the quarter. Moore would hit a critical three for the Lynx that would narrow the Mystics lead back to ten and begin a 7-0 run for Minnesota.
Brunson would hit two consecutive shots to cap the run. Lindsay Whalen and Brunson would each hit some key shots to try and put Minnesota back in the game, but four free throws by Ruffin-Pratt as well as good offensive rebounding would allow the Mystics to run enough time off the clock to secure a victory.
"Washington outplayed, outworked and outcoached us for 40 minutes. They wanted to win the game badly, and it showed," Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said.
When it comes to the playoffs, though, Lawson is hesitant to get complacent.
"I don't know if we're necessarily in playoff mindset because we have a lot of people that haven't really played in the playoffs or had much success in the playoffs but I think more than anything what the coaching staff has been preaching is these are the things you have to be able to do to win in the playoffs," she said. "You got to rebound at a higher level; we got to defend and lock into the scheme, to the scouting report.
"We've got to use all of the players on the team. Our strength is our depth."