Washington, D.C.-- Offense may sell tickets, but sometimes it’s free throws that win games.
That was the case on Sunday as the Dallas Wings topped the Washington Mystics in the final minute of their 87-83 victory.
This is the second time in as many weeks that the Wings and Mystics have faced off, with the Mystics winning their first meeting, 101-89.
Throughout the afternoon, it looked like Washington was poised to win their eighth game of 2017.
They out-shot Dallas from the field, and led by as many as 13 points. Nevertheless, it never felt like Dallas was out of the game.
That was in large part because they outrebound Washington, 35-30, and the fact that they hit five three-pointers in the fourth quarter compared to zero for the Mystics.
"I thought [rebounding] became a factor and a force in about the last two minutes of the game,” Wings head coach Fred Williams said.
“I think each team was kind of limiting each other to just one shot and they're gone, but that was huge in the last two minutes of the game. Boxing out was key."
While the Wings faced a 10-point deficit at halftime, a 16-point third quarter from Glory Johnson led to Dallas outscoring Washington 20-17 in the third. Johnson finished the afternoon with a game-high 27 points.
In the fourth quarter, Washington seemingly stalled offensively. They only shot 6-of-16 from the field, and weren’t able to take advantage of a key stretch midway through the quarter when Johnson was subbed out with an apparent thumb injury.
The final minute of the game was sloppy at best for the Mystics.
Questionable fouls, missed defensive assignments, a defensive three seconds call, and missed defensive rebounds, allowed Dallas to take a one-point lead after Karima Christmas-Kelly hit a free throw with just 54 seconds to go in the game.
It was the Wings’ first lead since the opening minutes of the first quarter, and just the second lead change of the afternoon.
Another loose ball foul led to a made free throw from Johnson to score her final point of the night, and give her team a two-point lead, 85-83.
"We just focused on locking them down on defense. It's easy to switch and people don't try and get through screens and all that stuff,” Johnson said.
“We said we weren't going to switch, we were going to lock down, play the best defense we can, get the rebound and go, and that's what we did."
Washington attempted a quick three on the offensive end from Kristi Tolliver, but as the shot fell short, the Mystics were forced to foul Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Diggins-Smith, who finished Sunday with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, made both free throws with just under 11 seconds left to ice the game.
“Give Dallas credit for hanging in. I thought Glory Johnson played a terrific game for them. This is one of our more disappointing losses, in how we lost,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said.
To come into Washington’s gym, and hold on in the waning seconds to defeat the best team in the Eastern Conference is no easy task.
This is the type of win that at the very least should give the Wings some confidence.
It is the type of win that shows just how scrappy this Dallas team is capable of being.
And sometimes, doing the simple things, like making free throws, is more than enough to win a game down the stretch.