WASHINGTON, DC—It’s no secret that the month of August has been less than ideal for the Washington Mystics.
After losing Elena Delle Donne due to a thumb injury, the Mystics suffered a tough loss to the San Antonio Stars just two days ago. On top of Delle Donne’s injury, Washington is also playing without Tayler Hill (who’s done for the year with an ACL tear) and Natasha Cloud (who has a foot injury).
On Sunday afternoon, Washington had the tough test of facing off against the Phoenix Mercury (who, for what it’s worth, are currently without Brittney Griner).
It’s only fitting then, that the Mystics topped Phoenix, 85-80, in an incredibly gritty and mentally tough win.
That toughness was on perfect display in the last 15 seconds of the game. Washington held onto just a one-point lead, knowing that Phoenix had outscored them in the second half up until that point.
It’s not surprising that the Mystics chose to put the game in the hands of veteran guard Kristi Toliver. Making her move down the left baseline, Toliver launched a fadeaway jumper that gave the Mystics a three-point lead.
"It's just about being ready and not afraid of big moments,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said.
“That is why we went and got her, because of situations like this that she will play through it. They beat her up early, they trapped her, they tried to do all sorts of things and she found other ways to go get good shots."
The Mercury called timeout and ran a play that ended in a three-point attempt from Diana Taurasi. When her shot didn’t go in, Washington’s Krystal Thomas, who finished the afternoon with a game-high 16 rebounds, was waiting inside to pull down the clutch board and draw the foul.
While Thomas got to shoot two free throws, she did not make either. Washington’s Emma Meesseman came up with what was arguably the most important rebound of the game, however, after Thomas’ second miss.
Meesseman kicked the ball out to Toliver, who Phoenix was forced to foul. She went on to ice the game with two free-throws and finished the afternoon with a game-high 20 points.
Prior to the final 15 seconds, the Mystics also got a tremendous effort from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who ended the night with 17 points. Ruffin-Pratt did a great job of attacking the lane all afternoon and altered the Phoenix attack after getting two blocks in the first half.
Sunday’s contest was no doubt an emotional game that was incredibly physical throughout. Considering the Mystics are playing without 45 percent of their offense, they had to rely on their hustle play and rebounding to come away with the win.
Behind Thomas’ intense effort, Washington out rebounded Phoenix 42-26. On the offensive glass, the Mystics held a 13-4 advantage. In fact, Thomas got more offensive rebounds (five) than the entire Phoenix squad.
“It was a big [win]. It was definitely one that we needed, they are a very tough team,” Toliver said.
“They are physical and they get out there and test you in certain ways and I think in certain phases we passed the test today. Not just with the win but also how we carried ourselves throughout all of the ups and downs. It was a good team win for us.”
While Washington will be without Delle Donne for the next couple of weeks, it’s clear that they are not using adversity as an excuse. If anything, they are using it as motivation to fuel their hustle, and will no doubt be after a few more gritty wins during that stretch.