Natasha Cloud had last scored more than 11 points in a game on May 18 in the second game of the Washington Mystics’ 2021 season. The time before that was Game 5 of the 2019 WNBA Finals, when she delivered on her guarantee to seal the championship with 18 points, capping a Finals where she averaged 14.4 and a playoffs where she averaged 13.1 after averaging nine in the regular season.
Cloud has had a career-year in the distributing department in 2021, averaging 6.4 assists, good for second in the league, ahead of elite point guards Chelsea Gray, Sue Bird and Skylar Diggins-Smith. But her shooting percentages and scoring average are down compared to the last two seasons she played in.
Her scoring 21 points on 4-of-8 shooting from distance with confidence and emotion reminiscent of her 2019 heroics on Saturday night at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in D.C. was a welcome site to Mystics fans whose team was playing without both Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles for just the second time this season. Oddly enough, Washington, which has been so unfortunate this year, won both games.
On Saturday, Cloud made a short bank shot in the paint with 1:05 remaining to put the Mystics up by six and the Dallas Wings were unable to come back as free throws sealed the deal in a 76-75 Washington win that saw the Mystics force 27 turnovers. Despite being 1-5 post-Olympic break entering the day, coming off a heartbreaking loss to Dallas on Thursday and being down 18 on Saturday, the Mystics ended the day in playoff position by virtue of a better record against .500 or better teams than the New York Liberty.
Cloud scored 15 points in the third and six in the fourth. The Mystics (10-15) won the third 29-18 to cut their deficit to five. From six seconds left in the third to the 6:12 mark of the fourth they went on 14-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at nine points. A Shavonte Zellous three gave them the lead with 8:15 to play. Cloud followed with a triple 30 seconds later that gave them a four-point lead.
After going up nine, Washington held a two-possession lead until an Isabelle Harrison 3-point play cut it to two with 2:05 to play. That was followed by a layup from Erica McCall of the Mystics off a nice Myisha Hines-Allen pass and then Cloud’s bank shot.
“With Elena and Tina being out, with A (Ariel Atkins) struggling a little bit tonight, a lot more does fall on me,” Cloud said. “And I’m capable of it. Most nights that’s not my job. My job is to lead this team and be the primary defender and put my teammates in successful situations and keep people committed to me and playing me straight up. But tonight I just needed to take a little bit more of a scoring role in that second half. I've been working on my shot for the last kind of three weeks, four weeks, since we got back from the Olympic break. Just making sure that I'm getting in the gym, making sure I can do what I can do. When that ball comes out to me, I gotta be able to knock down shots for my teammates.”
Arike Ogunbowale scored 25 points in defeat, including the final six points of the game to cut it to one.
Cloud added five assists to her contribution while Hines-Allen (two steals) was good for 15 points, including 12 in the second half. McCall posted seven points and eight rebounds and Theresa Plaisance notched 11 points.
Harrison finished with 18 points, nine boards and two steals while Marina Mabrey added 17 points and five helpers for the Wings.
The Mystics won despite being outshot from the field 53.2 percent to 37.1 percent and being out rebounded 34-22.
Dallas (11-15) is still in seventh place, a half a game ahead of the Mystics, but what a win for Washington to avoid making its situation worse. The Los Angeles Sparks (10-16) losing to the Connecticut Sun, also on Saturday, helped the Mystics as well.
Delle Donne re-aggravated her back on Thursday, which is why she did not play on Saturday. She was listed as questionable before the game. Charles remained out with a left gluteal strain and is expected back in one to three more games.
Connecticut Sun (20-6) over Los Angeles Sparks (10-16), 76-61
Brionna Jones had 16 points, 15 rebounds and three steals and the Sun won both the second and third by eight before leading comfortably throughout the fourth. The trailed by five after one.
Jonquel Jones (14 point, seven rebounds), Kaila Charles (12 points), DeWanna Bonner (10 points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Briann January (10 points, four assists, two steals) all scored in double figures as well.
Erica Wheeler recorded 15 points, six boards and seven helpers in defeat.
Connecticut won points in the paint 32-16 and outrebounded LA 38-18.
Heart and hustle got this W. pic.twitter.com/vvv1KAafBz— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 29, 2021
Las Vegas Aces (19-7) over Indiana Fever (5-19), 87-71
The game was close for a good chunk to start the first quarter, but Vegas took over from there. Six Aces scored in double figures: Riquna Williams (15 points), Kelsey Plum (14), Jackie Young (13), Chelsea Gray (13), Liz Cambage (12) and A’ja Wilson (11). Cambage (three blocks) and Wilson (three steals) added nine and seven rebounds, respectively. Plum (two steals) and Gray both had six assists while Young (three steals) had four.
Teaira McCowan posted 12 points and 13 rebounds in defeat.