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Depleted Mystics upset first-place Storm behind Tina Charles’ historic performance

Tina Charles was businesslike and the Washington Mystics needed every bit of her 34-point, 16-rebound effort to defeat the Seattle Storm.

Washington Mystics v Seattle Storm
Tina Charles (jersey #31)
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Tina Charles’ 16th rebound on Tuesday night came off a Breanna Stewart miss in the paint with 7.6 seconds to go and Stewart’s Storm trailing Charles’ Mystics 85-83.

Charles quickly passed it out of the paint to Leilani Mitchell, who was fouled and hit two free throws to seal an 87-83 Mystics victory at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash.

Washington had responded to a 10-0 Storm run that made the score 74-69 Seattle with a 16-4 run of its own that made the score 85-78 Mystics before holding on. Charles, who finished with 34 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, started the 16-4 run with a 5-0 individual run that tied the game at 74. She hit a hook shot with 7:06 to go in the fourth and her fifth 3-pointer 26 seconds later.

In WNBA history, only Candace Parker and Tina Thompson also have at least one 30-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist game. Charles is also the first WNBA player to go for 30 points and 15 rebounds in back-to-back games. And through 13 games, she already has the most 30-point games (six) in a single season in Mystics history.

After her 5-0 run, Charles’ teammates did the work to extend the lead. Mitchell (19 points, seven assists), Theresa Plaisance (10 points, nine rebounds) and Ariel Atkins (10 points, six assists) all hit threes, with Plaisance also adding a layup for five points during the 16-4 run.

A Jewell Loyd three and a layup from Stewart cut it to 85-83 with 56.1 seconds left. Loyd (23 points, nine assists) then missed a three that would have given Seattle the lead with 17.8 ticks remaining. Stewart added 17 points, eight boards and five blocks in defeat.

The Mystics were playing without Elena Delle Donne, Myisha Hines-Allen, Natasha Cloud, Erica McCall and Kiara Leslie and had to sign former Iowa star Megan Gustafson on a hardship contract to give them eight players. Gustafson hauled in six rebounds.

Delle Donne, a two-time MVP, hasn’t played yet this season and the Mystics had been surviving without her, sporting a .500 record entering Tuesday’s contest. But they were also missing a star in Hines-Allen and their emotional leader and top distributor in Cloud, the latter of whom they had yet to play without.

To make things even more impressive, the now fourth-place Mystics (7-6), defeated a Storm team that is 12-3.

“It’s just the will to win,” Charles said of stepping up because of absences. “I think I’m just doing my job. I don’t think I’m doing anything outside that you guys haven’t seen in my career. I’m just very thankful to be in this organization, but I don’t see that I’m doing anything different aside from playing smarter, being more selfless, sharing the ball, trusting my teammates more.

I think regardless of who we played we would have been excited, just being shorthanded and not having the full roster.”