Washington, D.C.—The Mystics dismantled the Chicago Sky 118-81 tonight—but, more importantly, they may have found their offensive powerhouse intent on leading them to the postseason.
Need a three? She’s got you.
A lay-up? Easy.
Free throws? Child’s play.
Off-ball movement? She’ll create it.
All of the above? Call Tayler Hill.
Through the highs and lows of Washington’s season, Hill has made it known that she is here to play. On Sunday against Dallas, she dropped 25. The week before she dropped 15 against the Lynx and 26 against the Stars. So were tonight’s 21 really a surprise?
“When she first came into the league, she was always fast, but learning how to use her speed and how to stop and start,” head coach Mike Thibault said.
Combine her use of changing speed with her jump shot and driving ability? You’ve got one tough player to guard.
“You have to respect both parts of her game, and I think that’s made a big difference,” Thibault continued.
Another part of Hill’s evolving game comes from her off the court life as well. Both Hill and Thibault credit her maturity to becoming a mom.
“I think you automatically learn more patience about yourself. You see things from other people’s perspective because you have a child, so you need to see things from their perspective. And I think that has helped me as a player,” Hill said.
“[Y]ou grow up fast when you become a mom and have responsibilities besides just yourself,” Thibault said. “She had a chance during that year, that she didn’t play to watch and see what this team needed.”
Hill really began to heat up in the second quarter scoring 8 points and leading the offense. On the back of Hill, Washington accomplished what they needed to from the outset: Good shot selection, which resulted in them shooting 60 percent from the field being perhaps the most important.
But Hill isn’t satisfied with her game quite yet.
“It’s a process whenever you go to the next level. Anytime, even at this level, from this year to next year I’ve gotta learn new things and add more things to the game.
“So it’s just a thing of dedication and work ethic, and if you’re willing to work at it you can get better at whatever you decide to do.”
But for all of Hill’s great offensive wizardry, the Mystics really played team basketball. After all, they recorded 33 assists compared the Sky’s 17. In fact, their 118 points and 16 three-pointers set franchise records. At times Washington can be their own worst enemy—but when they play the game with passion and are having fun? Watch out.
Perhaps most importantly, they played team defense which led their offense. For the Sky, Elena Delle Donne had only four points and two rebounds. She was on the bench for the entire second half.
And while the Washington did everything right tonight, the Sky fell victim to their most common weaknesses throughout the 2016 season. The Chicago Sky returned after the Olympic break in the playoff hunt, but fans will know that at times their defense needs to tighten up.
This was no different tonight as they let the Mystics score 25 in the first quarter and 31 in the second. Combine that with their slow offensive start, and Washington went into the locker room with a 17-point lead.
After the halftime break, Hill continued to put on a show as she added eight to extend Washington’s lead out to nearly thirty. Add in the post presence of Emma Meesseman and the off the bench play of Leilani Mitchell — ball game.
This game also underscored an important point for the playoffs. No matter the record of either team, anybody can beat anybody on any given night in the WNBA, which is why seeding is so important this year.
Washington remains in the hunt for a playoff spot and if Hill continues to play the way she has been, she might single-handedly will them there herself. But is she playing her best basketball of the season?
“No, not quite but as long as we keep winning that’s all that matters.”
Get ready to hear the name Tayler Hill a lot throughout the next few weeks.