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‘Playoff mode’ has been activated for Washington Mystics

With a week of rest, the Washington Mystics looked very refreshed as key bench contributions from Tianna Hawkins and Rui Machida helped propel them to an 87-77 victory over the Dallas Wings on Thursday. A crucial weekend matchup with Seattle now awaits them.

Washington Mystics v Dallas Wings Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

After an entire week off since the last game, the Washington Mystics came into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Wings with an abundance of rest. In the pregame press conference, head coach Mike Thibault mentioned how he gave the team some much needed time to unwind before preparing for the Dallas game.

So on a night where he was also named an assistant coach for the 2022 U.S. women’s national team, Coach Thibault was all business before Thursday’s game.

Even without Delle Donne, the team looked very refreshed as key bench contributions from Tianna Hawkins and Rui Machida helped propel Washington to an 87-77 victory. After the game, Hawkins expressed how the bench is always ready to contribute when called upon.

“Before every game I tell the bench mobs to be ready when your name is called… You’ve got a sub coming, so there’s no reason to leave anything else on the court. “

Like Elizabeth Williams in the previous game, Tianna Hawkins made her presence felt on the defensive end while also pouring in some much needed scoring in limited minutes. She was a game high plus-13. When Hawkins was on the floor on Thursday, the Mystics anchored a jaw-dropping 68.0 defensive rating. Physical defense is something Coach Thibault emphasized as something he wanted to see in his team prior to the start of the game, and Tianna Hawkins responded in a big way.

Washington jumped right out the gate shooting the lights out. Alysha Clark made two early threes that truly set the tone for the rest of the night. She finished with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including going 3 for 3 on three point attempts. Washington led 56-36 at halftime, anchored by aggressive yet disciplined first half defense.

The third quarter was a similar story, with the defense being opportunistic and the offense finding quality shots. The result was beneficial for all, the Mystics had all starters score in double figures, which is only the second time that has happened this season. Natasha Cloud used the phrase “everybody eats”, reminiscent of the 2018 Washington Wizards who also used the phrase in similar fashion.

Cloud certainly knows a thing or two about getting teammates involved in the scoring festivities. She is leading the WNBA in assists and dished out a team-high seven assists in the win. With Thursday’s performance she has now assisted at least 5+ assists in 24 games this season.

With this victory, the Washington Mystics are now tied with the Seattle Storm for fourth place in the standings. The next two games are against Seattle, which not only means they have implications on playoff seeding, but this could also signal a future first round playoff matchup. Natasha Cloud is no stranger to these moments. She shared the mindset of the team heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

Coach Thibault expressed the same sentiment. Acknowledging that this isn’t the same Seattle team Washington faced earlier in the year.

With the team getting a week off, they recently ramped up the intensity at practice. It’s safe to say “playoff mode” has been activated. Myisha Hines-Allen spoke with the media on Tuesday about how the team has been ramping up into playoff form.

“Yesterday we had a get-back-into-it day, so today we knew it was going to be hard. A lot of 5-on-5 basketball… This is like playoff basketball, we are getting ready to start the playoffs; high intensity, ready to get after it.”