The Washington Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream 75-64 on the road at the Albany Civic Center last night. Needless to say, the win was a nice outcome for Washington as they look to adjust their rotation.
With the regular season coming up, the Mystics and Dream both have a chance to prove their critics wrong because of the fact that there is no overwhelming favorite to win the title. But as of now, the Mystics have the upper hand because of their depth and current roster.
Here are the top three takeaways from last night’s Mystics-Dream preseason matchup:
Ariel Atkins is still hot
Last season, Ariel Atkins impressed with her composure, talent and consistency as a rookie in the WNBA. In her sophomore season, the pressure is only going to increase.
Last night, she finished the game with 15 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. Atkins started for the second consecutive time in the preseason, which could translate into her starting more in the regular season.
Obviously, head coach Mike Thibault is still experimenting with the lineup, but it’s a possibility that Atkins starts the season in the starting lineup. She started 24 games last season. Atkins will help this team if she starts more frequently because of her ability to break down the defense, move without the basketball and shoot the three-ball effectively.
Atkins may be an exception to the “sophomore slump” because of the experience she gained from last season and her overall approach to the game.
Tiffany Hayes is in the driver’s seat
Tiffany Hayes held the fort down last season after Angel McCoughtry went down with a season-ending injury. Without McCoughtry, analysts and critics struggled to see Atlanta in a competitive light without their franchise player.
However, Hayes proved them wrong with her flashy style of play, from her quick crossover to her one-on-one moves that can freeze any defender. Last night, Hayes ended the game with a team-high 17 points, making the second time this preseason that she scored in double digits.
Without McCoughtry in the lineup, Hayes will have to continue to step up for this team and provide energy, effort and leadership. Clearly, Hayes is the best player on the team without McCoughtry because of her leadership, ability to score and her personal skill set.
The Mystics’ depth is their X factor
At the end of last season, Washington struggled to find an answer for the high-octane offense of the Seattle Storm. The Mystics’ roster was filled with talent, but often times the team lacked the ability to generate points outside of their immediate rotation.
Outside of the core of Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, the Mystics need another primary scorer entering the 2019 season. Luckily, they have plenty of options to choose from. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — who led all scorers last night with 18 points — and Emma Meesseman can provide offense whether they start or come off the bench.
Despite her calm approach to the game, Meesseman is often overlooked because of her assist-first mentality. However, she can score in a variety of ways, whether it’s off the fast break, pick-and-roll or spot-up shots.
The return of Meesseman and the emergence of Walker-Kimbrough could be the punch that the Mystics need for the 2019 season.