The Mystics opened a crucial WNBA schedule with a win in Dallas.

The Mystics opened a crucial WNBA schedule with a win in Dallas.

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Opinion

ARLINGTON, Texas – The end of the Washington Mystics’ longest layoff of the season coincided with the start of perhaps their most important stretch of the year.

With the six days between games, coach Mike Thibault gave the team a weekend off before two days of practice. Thursday’s 87-77 loss to Dallas started a streak of four games in six days, including a back-to-back with Seattle this weekend in a pair of games with big playoff implications. A home game against Commissioner’s Cup champion Las Vegas follows three days later before heading to first-place Chicago, the defending WNBA champion.

The Mystics (18-11), playing without Elena Delle Donne (scheduled night), got off to a good start at College Park Center. The win over the Wings (12-16) moved them into a tie with Seattle, who lost to Connecticut, for fourth place in the league.

“It’s obviously a big weekend,” Thibault said. “There is very little preparation time for both teams. . . . well played [the Storm] A month ago, and not much else has changed [adding former Mystic] Tina [Charles]. We did not confront her. . . . It’s like go out and play.”

Point guard Natasha Cloud, one of the team’s more vocal leaders, said she didn’t need to say anything to get into this crucial streak.

“It’s not a message,” she said before Thursday’s game. “We’re all understanding that it’s one day at a time, one game at a time.

“We just need to take control of our destiny. That means being road warriors and looking forward to the weekend, being able to play from behind and be effective and consistent in these two games. So we’re in trouble now. … We’re 10 fingers down from where we are now, going forward. We are not looking too hard because we can finish this season strongly and move ourselves up the ladder.

The Mystics have played several games in the league heading into the All-Star Game this month. The schedule was a big reason Tibault gave the team more rest.

We like to be close to each other, but … we also need some space,” Cloud said with a laugh. “And it’s time to start over, be with our families and just sit for a minute and be where our feet are. Because I think a lot of times people forget that we’re constantly on the move. I literally go home, spend a day with my dogs, and then I’m on the road again.

Here’s what else you need to know about Mystic Victory:

Washington had one of its best halves of the season, taking a 56-36 halftime lead. The Mystics never trailed after losing 4-2.

Maisha Hines-Allen moved into the starting lineup in Delle Don’s absence and opened the game with a steal and layup. A few minutes later, she crossed the defender and then hit a three-pointer to beat the Mystics 11-6. Hines-Allen finished with 14 points.

“My thing was, try to be aggressive from the start,” Hines-Allen said. But mostly, to start that run, [it] It started on defense. We were able to get our hands on things and finish just for the transition, and then our bench came in and we did the same things. That’s how we were able to keep up all the progress.

The Wings made a fourth-quarter push to get within nine, but Cloud (14 points, seven assists) buried back-to-back layups to extend the lead to 78-64. Five Mystics players finished in double figures, including Arielle Atkins (14), Shakira Austin (12) and Alisha Clark (13).

The Mystics got a big lift from their bench late in the first quarter, going on a 9-0 run to take a 28-14 lead. Shatori Walker-Kimborough continued to play well, helping the team’s lobbying efforts and becoming the league’s sixth woman of the year. Tiana Hawkins returned to the rotation with a strong outing and finished with seven points. The Mystics’ bench outscored the Wings’ 20-5.

“It’s just a matter of being prepared,” Hawkins said. “I always tell the bench players before the game 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.

Thibault has been selected as an assistant for the US Women’s National Team that will play in this year’s FIBA ​​World Cup. He is joined by Cara Lawson (Duke) and Johnny Taylor (Texas A&M) by coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx). Thibault has been involved with both men’s and women’s basketball outside of USA Basketball since 1993 and was an assistant on the women’s Olympic team that won gold in 2008.

“Doing American is always fun and always an honor,” Thibault said. “I’ve been doing it since 1993. Tells you how old I am. . . . It’s always rewarding and there’s nothing like representing your country on the international stage and playing the best in the world.

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