On Sunday night, the battle for third place took place at the Verizon Center as the Washington Mystics were taking on the Connecticut Sun. Despite both teams being 7-6, each team's record tells a very different story.
The Mystics came into tonight's game after defeating the Indiana Fever on Friday 68-50 for their first victory in the month of July. On the other hand, the Sun were riding a five-game losing streak after starting the season 7-1.
Tonight's game would belong to veteran guard Kara Lawson as she scored 24 points leading the Mystics to an 89-82 victory over the Sun. Afterward, Lawson talked about what working for her in tonight's game.
"Just getting open looks and knocking them down. Frankly I haven't hit a lot of open looks, so it was nice to contribute to the team in that way. Knocked down some shots early to give us an offensive boost."
Lawson was taking on her former team in the Sun and looked like she had something to prove from the opening tip. In the first quarter, the Mystics got out to a 14-4 lead thanks in large part to Lawson, who had 11 points and was 3-of-3 from three-point range.
With the Sun down 10 with 5:15 to go in the opening quarter, guard Alex Bentley kept Connecticut in the game. She went on to score nine straight points, knocking down step-back jumpers and bank shots to only have the Sun down 19-9.
Then with under a minute to go in the first, her teammate Shekinna Stricklen got involved in the action knocking down a three-pointer to put Connecticut only down 19-12.
Stricklen was not done as she dialed up another shot from distance with 7.9 seconds to go in the first, and the Sun were down 20-15. The Mystics were able to hold off the Sun's late surge to lead 22-15 after one.
In the second quarter, Shekinna Stricklen continued her hot shooting from distance but with Kelsey Bone and Bentley now joining the fray. By the midway point of the first half, the Sun and Mystics were tied up at 28-28 as Stricklen had 12 points and 4-of-4 from three-point range.
The Mystics were trying to push the pace in the second quarter, and it worked. Lawson was still scoring at a rapid pace with teammate Stefanie Dolson pitching in with nine points, being a dominant force in the paint. But with 52.9 seconds to go in the first half, Stricklen struck again this time from distance with another three-pointer.
Stricklen's fifth three-pointer would give the Sun a 41-39 lead going into the half. The Sun went 6-of-11 from distance as it helped them get back into the game despite Lawson having a terrific game herself.
In the third quarter, both teams were trading baskets as the Mystics were dictating the pace of the game. Lawson knocked down a corner jump shot to give her 18 points on the night to put the Mystics up 51-48, after the Sun started out the quarter on a 7-0 run.
The Mystics weren't done yet as Dolson made a mid-range jump shot to give her 15 points at that point and increase their lead to six.
Tonight's game had Lawson's fingerprints on it, and she made sure in the third quarter that Washington would not let up their lead. With 3:55 to go in the third, the Mystics were up 56-48 with Lawson scoring her 20th point.
However, the Sun were not out of it yet, just like the first quarter, they made a run towards the end of the third quarter tying it up at 59-59, thanks to Bone knocking down a jump shot as time expired. She finished the game scoring 24 points on an efficient 10-of-17 from the field to go along with six rebounds and two assists.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Sun jumped out to a quick 4-0 run thanks to baskets from Bone and Bentley to put them up 63-59. But that did not phase the Mystics one bit as they went on a 7-0 run themselves capped off by an Ivory Latta three-pointer to now lead 66-63 at the 7:58 mark.
The Mystics would then open up a small 69-65 lead, but it was cut to one by Stricklen making another three-pointer. She finished the game with 19 points. However, have no fear, Lawson saved the day once again knocking down a timely three-pointer herself putting the Mystics back up 72-68 with 6:39 to go.
Washington would not hold the lead though as Bentley got a clutch steal and layup on the other end to tie the game up at 74-74 with 4:27 to go.
It was just too much of a team effort tonight from the Mystics that the Sun could not handle. Late in the fourth, the Mystics went on another 7-0 run to put them up 81-74 with LaToya Sanders scoring four straight points. She went on to finish with 17 points in the game.
Sanders was an integral part of Mystics' win making plays down the stretch.
"I think we got some key rebounds, some key baskets, and we knew we were in the bonus, so it was a point of ours to just keep pounding it in the paint to try and get to the free throw line. And ultimately that's what made a difference in the end," she said.
She finished with 17 points as the Mystics made their free throws down the stretch to win the game 89-82.
The Mystics as aforementioned got offense from a lot of different players tonight, and that was the difference. Four different Mystics were in double figures led by Lawson with 24 points, followed by Dolson with 20 points and eight rebounds. Don't forget off the bench, Washington got 27 points from Latta and Sanders.
Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault talked about tonight's physical game that his team come out on top.
"That's a good win. They're a very physical team. They're hard to play against; they got great shooters, and as you can see that's one of the reasons they are one of the best three-point shooting teams in our league," he said.
"For a couple minutes there I didn't think [Shekinna] Stricklen was going to miss. But in the second half we did a great job of taking that away."
For the Sun, the big three of Stricklen, Bone and Bentley just wasn't enough. After the game, Bone mentioned how not doing the little things ended up costing them the victory: "Just the little things. We got lost on a couple defensive assignments. They went big, and we never adjusted to that.
"When you have [LaToya] Sanders, [Emma] Meesseman and [Stefanie] Dolson on the floor at the same time you've got to be able to box out, get stops and try and force them to guard. We weren't able to capitalize on that."
Stricklen was dialed in from distance, while had Bentley 18 points and kept them in the game early on.
The Mystics now turn their attention to the Shock, whom they will play on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. ET. In terms of the Sun, they will be looking to snap their now six-game losing streak against Maya Moore and Lynx on Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET.