Washington, D.C. — It’s a tight race in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Mystics stand to score a playoff spot, despite a sub .500 record, if only they can grind out a few more games towards the end of the season.
It may seem like a case of déjà vu for Mystics fans (see the 2015 season finale), but are the Mystics about to fall short this year on even making the playoffs?
In basketball, at any level, consistency and fundamentals are key. And while they are a young team with promising young stars, consistency has been Washington’s downfall all season long.
“I think any team that’s fighting for a playoff spot is worried about consistency,” head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said. “We need to go out and win two out of three games at a time. We just can’t play great one night and not great the next. It’s a bad formula; you’re risking things.
“We might go .500 and get in, but you don’t want to leave it to chance. I think we have to be a lot better than we were, and that’s the most disappointing thing.
On the surface, you would think Washington could be fighting for a top spot in the east this year. They have veteran leadership behind Ivory Latta and Kia Vaughn.
They have heart and passion behind fan favorite Tierra Ruffin-Pratt
They have a gifted ability to score in Tayler Hill-- just yesterday, she scored 18 points and dished out four assists against the Indiana Fever and turned that into a 26-point performance tonight.
And anyone who has seen the quick feet and textbook perfect shots of Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson would be hard pressed to come up with a reason why they couldn’t be two of the more dominating post players in the game.
So what happens? Poor shooting, or poor ball movement, or some questionable calls, and Washington becomes their own worst enemy. When they get down, they are out. At times it’s like watching a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oftentimes, they come back at the end of games, but it is too little too late. And that was no different tonight in their 85-74 loss to the San Antonio Stars.
Physicality was the name of the game early on. Ten total fouls were called, as the teams battled down low in the paint. The Mystics struggled against the adversity and shot only 23 percent from the field. Even then, the game remained close with the Stars ahead 17-14.
It wouldn’t stay that way. Washington only managed to score six points in the second quarter while San Antonio scored nearly 30. For a squad that has only won five games all season long, the Stars came out and played like a team with nothing to lose.
“I think as soon as we missed a couple of [shots], you saw the body language go down, as far as ‘man I can’t make a shot.’ There were two or three people that did that. And if you’re going to be a great pro, you gotta think you’re gonna make the next one. And I didn’t get that vibe from us tonight,” Thibault said.
Whatever was said in the Mystics locker room at the half really turned their play around. Led by Hill, who scored 12 points in the quarter, they were within striking distance getting within ten, and ending the quarter behind 63-52. The early deficit would still prove too much to overcome.
With tonight’s loss, Washington falls to 11-15 on the season, but are still not mathematically eliminated. Washington has the talent. Now they just need consistency.
“It’s in our hands. It’s definitely in our hands,” Hill said. “We control our own destiny we kinda gotta worry about us and only us and take it one game at a time. We kind of have to play every game like it’s our last game of the year.”