Washington, D.C — Both Indiana and Washington came into tonight’s game without some of their best players. Yet, the Mystics were not fazed and were still able to capitalize despite the short roster.
Indiana traveled to the Capitol One Arena without guards Briann January and Tiffany Mitchell who would not be suiting up to take on the number four team in the league. Both are currently out due to right knee injuries and listed as day-to-day. On the other side of the court, Washington’s Elena Delle Donne was out after having a recent thumb surgery, and Tayler Hill remains out with a torn ACL.
As if missing players – starters at that – wasn’t enough adversity, both teams had to sit through a 53-minute delay in the middle of the contest. As Washington and Indiana were in the locker rooms for halftime, a leak was discovered making an immediate safety concern.
Once the delay was over though, the Mystics went right back to work on the Fever and completed the three game regular season sweep. Like its matchup in June where Washington shut down Indiana 88-70 and then 72-58 in July, tonight’s victory was the Mystics’ largest: 100-80.
“Can’t give up a hundred points. I think we put ourselves in the hole early and it’s hard to come back from that. Thought we had good energy in the second half after the rain delay,” stated Indiana’s Candice Dupree.
“But our defense just wasn’t there, we have to do a better job of defending ball screens and being able to rotate out of those. That would help us to not give up offensive rebounds and hit their post players rolling to the basket wide open.”
Washington found its rhythm from the outset, scoring the first few points of the game, and didn’t look back, as Indiana struggled early with turnovers and mindless fouls. By the end of the opening frame, the home team had the advantage, 28-16.
The Mystics continued to build upon the early momentum, especially with the offensive play of Emma Meesseman and Krystal Thomas. Meesseman ended the half with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. When she wasn’t laying in hooks, Meesseman was the ultimate facilitator, creating a plethora of opportunities for her teammates to relentlessly attack the basket.
Not to be outdone, Thomas, who was named the Player of the game, ended with 14 rebounds and a career-high 20 points, after shooting 87.5 percent from the field. She was a force to be reckoned with — and there wasn’t anybody on Indiana who could slow her down.
But their play, albeit fantastic, that wasn’t the climax of the game. While their city’s counterpart, Washington Nationals, are used to this type of conundrum, it’s not something one sees in basketball.
To start the third, the game was in a rain delay by a nearly an hour to a leak in the ceiling of the arena. That stoppage seemingly caused Washington seemed to slip in their play, and lose some of its focus as Indiana’s Erica Wheeler went on a personal 5-0 run.
Wheeler wasn’t the only Fever player to get going, though, as Dupree came alive. She started to capitalize, hitting her signature mid-range shot, all the while ending the night with a team and game-high, 26 points.
“Neither team has gone through that kind of stuff before,” said Mystics head coach, Mike Thibault when discussing the rain delay. “You just come out and get loose, and you stick to your game plan. We didn’t do a good job defensively in the third quarter. We scored, but we let Dupree get going the third quarter.”
“I thought that was a combination of them finding her more and us losing maybe a little bit of defensive focus,” Thibault continued. “We were scoring so easily for parts of the game that the tendency is to trade baskets a little bit, and that’s not a good habit to get into and I thought we did that in the third quarter a little bit.”
But all things comes to an end, and Indiana’s good fortune ended before it started. Washington picked up their intensity of defense, and with its defense back in tack, the Mystics offensive picked right back up. By the end of the game, five players had scored in double digits for the home team, including rookie Shatori Walker-Kimbrough with 13, and the team accumulated 23 assists.
For the fourth time this season, Washington ended a game with at least 100 points, this time defeating the Fever 100-80. This victory also advances the team to a 10-2 record on their home court.
“It’s the crowd, we [have] been having some really great crowds. And focusing on the things that we need to do to get those wins,” stated Ivory Latta of the Mystics. “But like coach said, we have people that are stepping up and doing a good job for the team.”
Washington’s series at home will continue on Wednesday when they take on the Los Angeles Sparks.