Washington D.C. — Although it's one of the hottest months of the year and several Midwestern states are under severe heat index advisories; it's been a cold July in Washington D.C. The Mystics dropped their sixth-straight game against New York, 88-81.
While the Mystics' game plan was to put pressure on Liberty forward Tina Charles, who leads the league averaging 21.6 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game, and make it difficult for her and Sugar Rodgers to score, it was New York's bench players who ended up making the difference, scoring 69 of the team's points.
New York guard Rebecca Allen scored a team-high 19 points and guard Brittany Boyd scored 17 points and dished out seven assists, respectively.
Five Liberty players scored in double digits. Allen said this was key for today's win to spread out the Mystics' defense.
"It makes it harder to defend if you have more people that are scoring in double figures. It makes it a lot harder to target one person," said Allen. "The opposition defensively, they have to watch out for more than one or two people so that is good."
In today's midweek matchup, the Mystics were desperate to garner some momentum before the month-long Olympic break. And that's just what they did in the first quarter.
Washington sparked momentum early in the game after Kahleah Copper and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, sank back-to-back threes. The Mystics held on with a relentless attitude and ran off with an 8-2 run, capped by Ivory Latta, who sank a three. Washington pulled away, 16-8.
Out of the media timeout, it seemed the Mystics still had the energy on their end of the court. Washington's defense got the stop, and Natasha Cloud found an open crease on the baseline to make a three-point play.
After both team's exchanged points, Boyd stole the ball and scored a breakaway layup. This was the spark the Liberty needed to get things going on their offensive end. New York went on a 9-2 run to close out the first quarter.
Boyd opened up the second quarter with a two-on-one layup, making her handles look easy.
After leading by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, the Mystics fell apart in the second. The Liberty scored 30 points in the second quarter, 10 of which came from New York guard Shavonte Zellous. Their field goal percentage dropped from 57.1 percent at the end of the first quarter to 37.5 percent from the field at the end of the second.
At the end of the first half, New York had the 47-37 edge. Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said it wasn't his defense that needed to improve in the second half, but rather his offense's productivity needed to be fixed.
In the third quarter, the Mystics appeared to have fixed their offensive funk. Latta sank a three to pull Washington within nine. Ruffin-Pratt and Emma Meesseman showed patients and poise with their ball movement. Washington was carving its way back into the game.
New York sent Latta to the free throw line, where she sank a pair. New York was unable to answer, and then Latta sank a three to tie the game at 54.
With the Mystics at the Liberty's heels, New York felt the heat and started to drive forward. Zealous' air ball fell right into the hands of Amanda Zahui B, where she was able to grab it down and force a three-point play. New York ended the third quarter on a 13-3 run and led by 10 points heading into the final quarter of the game.
Although Washington tried to narrow in on New York's lead, the Liberty stayed hot. Mystics center Stefanie Dolson, produced nine points in the fourth quarter and tried to pick up some much-needed momentum. Dolson sank her first three of the season, pulling Washington within five from New York.
But time was of the essence, and as the game clock dwindled down, the Mystics found themselves fouling to try to save time. However, it wasn't enough. The Liberty defeated the Mystics 88-81. This was the second time this season Washington fell to New York.
Dolson said the last stretch of possessions was a good comeback for her team, but in the end the Mystics couldn't hold on
"We made big shots, had good rotations, good help defense but just unlucky in the last part of the game," said Dolson. "We left the person who they wanted to shoot open and they made those big shots at the end. When you play a good team like that you can't let them get a lead. Once they had it, it was hard to come back."
After the game Thibault said the Olympic break is coming at a good time for his team.
"We need to get our bodies healthy and go back to training camp and capture the good parts of our team and eliminate the bad parts," said Thibault. "Being young is no longer an excuse, we have to fight throw this [losing streak]."
New York (18-7) currently is at the top of the Eastern Conference, but sits comfortably at third overall in the league behind Los Angeles and Minnesota. For Washington, every game matters. The Mystics (9-14) are fifth in the Eastern Conference and are tied with Dallas for eighth place in the league.
The Liberty will have to recover quickly for tomorrow's clash against the Fever. New York will host Indiana on its home territory, Madison Square Garden; tip-off is 11 a.m. ET.
The Mystics will try to salvage this cold July with one more game before the Olympic break. Washington will host Los Angeles on Friday, July 22; the game starts at 7 p.m. ET.