Ariel Atkins continued her ascent to stardom and Tina Charles continued her MVP campaign, combining for 43 points for the Washington Mystics (4-5) in their 89-71 win over the Los Angeles Sparks (4-4) on Thursday night at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
The Mystics went from up six one minute and 36 seconds into the third to up 24 one minute and 31 seconds into the fourth behind a run from their starters that was backed up by the bench.
Charles, who had 12 points in the first half, hit her first 3-pointer of the contest to put Washington up nine and her second three, which came at the 6:03 mark of the third, made it a 13-point game in favor of the Mystics, tying the team’s largest lead from the first half.
Contributions came from all over to push the lead to 18 entering the fourth, where back-to-back Theresa Plaisance triples made it a 24-point game real quick.
Atkins scored 18 of her 23 points in the first half, including two threes that opened the game and put the Mystics up 6-0. Washington led by 10 at the break.
“I just liked the fact that Ariel and Tina both were aggressive again coming out to start the game,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault. “It puts teams on their heels when you can have both a post presence and a perimeter presence ready to go right from the start.
Ariel’s pretty locked in right now.”
It was Atkins’ third-highest scoring output of the season. She scored a season-high 29 last Saturday and is averaging 18.3 points per game, good for 11th in the league.
“My team puts me in this position,” Atkins said of her recent success. “Coach put me in this position. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able for people to be like ‘nah we gotta guard her.’ It definitely feels good to be able to do this for my team. And at the end of the day it’s really about just finding those open looks and then making sure I stay aggressive. Because at the end of the day if we all get better and we all be consistent at what we’re trying to do here, our team gets better as a whole.”
“She is an All-Star, period,” Natasha Cloud said of Atkins. “Ariel Atkins is doing Ariel Atkins things. ... We’re really giving her the keys to the team in a sense and she’s taking it and she’s doing a phenomenal job.”
Charles finished with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Plaisance notched a season-high 11 points off the bench to go along with six boards and four blocks. Myisha Hines-Allen added 10 points and six rebounds to the winning cause while Cloud chipped in with eight points and a game-high five assists.
The 11 points from Plaisance and a good overall performance from the bench in the fourth were keys to a relaxing finish.
“It’s been a tough road and now we’re starting to feel like we’re getting our mojo and we’re getting on a stride and we’re getting our momentum,” Cloud said. “Today was a nice day to go out there and to be able to get some minutes taken off our starters that have been playing a lot of the time and then to get our bench some more experience in game situations.”
Te’a Cooper led the Sparks with 11 points and Kristine Anigwe had seven and nine boards in defeat.