The Washington Mystics lost a regular-season series against two of the 11 teams they played this season: the Phoenix Mercury and their 2019 WNBA Finals opponent, the Connecticut Sun.
At the end of the day, this is the only series that matters. The regular season is what got both teams here, not what will define their standing when the postseason comes to a close. But the Sun did beat a very good Mystics team twice, and even though they’re relishing the underdog role, they have a lot going for them, too.
One of the grand conclusions of Swish Appeal’s analysis of the positional matchups in this series is that between the players who have been consistently great all season long and the players who have had breakout postseason performances, how these players are used will tell the real story. This tips things in the Sun’s favor, having played the same starting five all regular season long and all postseason. Curt Miller has found a combination that works, and he’ll keep using it as long as it does.
The Mystics — led by head coach Mike Thibault, whose 2004 and 2005 Sun teams lost in their only two Finals appearances — have been a bit more experimental. They’ve started nine players (though only out of necessity, as four of their go-to starters have started at least 31 games) and settled on a postseason rotation that plays to their strengths of the moment. This usually means the decision of whether to start Emma Meesseman or not and being very generous in going to their bench if something isn’t working, simply because they can afford to do so.
Game 1 will set an important benchmark for the rest of the series, as the Mystics host a Sun team that has been relatively disappointing on the road this season, and who hasn’t played a road game on their opponent’s true home court this postseason. If the Sun can overcome that and grab a win, their chances of winning it all rise sharply. The Mystics must, then, ensure that doesn’t happen if they aim to avoid losing two Finals in a row.
Both teams did what they needed to do in the semifinals: win both home games and grab one on the road. But this one, as they say, counts.
No. 1 Washington Mystics vs. No. 2 Connecticut Sun
When: Sunday, Sept. 29, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, DC
How to watch: ESPN
Keys to the matchup: The Mystics need to prove that they’re comfortable playing at home, something they didn’t truly get a chance to do in last season’s Finals (their one home game took place in Virginia). Not taking advantage of this ... well, huge advantage, will only spell trouble down the line, especially as the series moves to Connecticut, where it’s been near-impossible for teams to win a game this season (and where the Mystics dropped two). Grabbing a home win will give them a 1-0 lead, of course, but it’ll also get the team over a hurdle it’s never crossed in its history. They’ll need that confidence moving forward.