““It’s good that we’re focused every game,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “For all of us who are on a high these days, it’s a way to learn a little more about yourself. You’re playing for something. There’s an edge to these games, and they’re teams you know you’ll be facing if you want to advance.
The Mystics used that edge on Tuesday night to beat the Aces 83-73 in the bottom of the first quarter to move into the No. 4 playoff opener with four games remaining. Keeping that spot would give the Mystics (20-12), who have won five of their last six and are now a half-game ahead of Seattle (19-12), home-court advantage in the first round.
The second-ranked Aces (22-9), who recently beat the Sky and won the Commissioner’s Cup, entered Tuesday with a four-game winning streak tied for the top spot in the league. Coach Becky Hammon laughed when asked how important that No. 1 seed was.
“We were better along the way,” she said before the game. “So I don’t even know if I want to. It’s just about playing well at the right time. Playing well, being strong – that’s my biggest concern.
The playing picture is tight all around. Washington would be 1½ games behind the third-place Connecticut Sun (21-10), and the Hurricanes would hold a tiebreaker over the Mystics if they finished with the same record.
““I think playing games like that helps,” Thibault said. “We’re still playing for something. Whenever you beat a good team that you know can compete for a championship, it helps with confidence. We’ve had some really good wins in the last couple of weeks.
Here’s what you need to know about Mystic Victory:
Thibault called Tuesday’s second half his team’s best defense of the season. The Aces managed just 32 points as Washington used an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a 79-68 lead and put the game away.
The victory was even more impressive considering that only five points were managed while Elena delle Don was receiving heavy defensive attention; She had 11 answers and five assists. Thibault was dealing with tired legs but promised to be fine in the fourth quarter.
“said guard Natasha Cloud, who had 16 points and nine rebounds. “So it comes down to the franchise player being such a selfless guy. If this is our franchise player, how can we be selfish?
Ariel Atkins scored 13 points as the Mystics finished their season with a sweep of the Aces.
“We’re starting to gel and it’s starting to click and we’re starting to get it right [expletive] It’s terrific and we’re at the right time,” Cloud said. “We knew this was going to happen. We knew this was where we would be if we stuck to our plan and the process. So we are trying to finish the season strong and prepare ourselves for the playoffs.
Rookie Shakira Austin had 15 points and eight rebounds to pace 2020 MVP Aja Wilson (high 22 points). Playing tight on both ends, Austin had many and one.
No. 1 pick Atlanta Dream’s Arhin Howard was named Rookie of the Month on Monday in July, but No. 3 pick Austin is firmly in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors.
“I must be Rookie of the Year,” she says with a smile. “And we’ll win, Chip!”
The Mystics have kept an eye on the Los Angeles Sparks, and the more they struggle, the better for Washington. The Sparks’ 2023 first-round draft pick is owned by the Dream, who traded that pick with the Mystics, who landed them No. 1 pick this year. The Mystics have the option to trade their 2023 first-round pick for the Sparks’ pick.
Los Angeles (12-18) lost to the New York Liberty (12-18) on Tuesday and dropped four in a row. Sparks are tied for the ultimate finale with dreams and freedom. If Los Angeles misses the postseason, that draft pick becomes a lottery pick — and the Mystics have a shot at securing the No. 1 pick for the second straight year.