With a career-best six steals, Natasha Cloud led the Washington Mystics to a victory over the surging Minnesota Lynx, who had arrived in DC as winners of their last three games. The Mystics looked strong in games last week against the league-leading Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces but weren’t able to close out either game with a win.
Tuesday night was a different story. After a players-only meeting before the game, the Mystics came out firing on all cylinders. About the meeting, Cloud said that the players discussed their expectations for the season and “It brought us all together”.
The improved connection between players was obvious as the Mystics executed a far more balanced offense all game. With 31 points from current WNBA scoring leader Tina Charles to go along with 8 rebounds and 19 points from Myisha Hines-Allen, 17 from Ariel Atkins (who had been questionable before the game with back soreness) and 11 from Natasha Cloud, the Mystics took advantage of their spread offense.
After a couple of games where the Mystics were slow to start the second half, this game proved to be a different story. The Mystics came out of halftime looking sharp, outscoring the Lynx 27-18 in the third quarter (including a 12-0 run). The team offense was a beautiful thing to watch with the most dramatic highlight being a tremendous Tina Charles and-one pump fake to the rim.
Equally impressive was the Mystics’ defense. The Mystics held WNBA all-time great Sylvia Fowles to 15 points, most of those coming from the foul line. The Mystics’ 13 steals led to 23 points, compared with 8 points off of 8 steals by the Lynx. The Mystics constant pressure forced the Lynx into a total 21 turnovers (the Mystics’ only turned the ball over 12 times, with just 2 in the second half). Myisha Hines-Allen, continuing her own impressive season, had a huge block with 17 seconds left in the game that snuffed out any hope the Lynx had of completing a comeback.
The Lynx were led in the defeat by Napheesa Collier’s 22-point effort and recently-signed guard, Layshia Clarendon, who added 14 points and 6 assists. Last year’s ROY Crystal Dangerfield also had 6 assists and scored 10 points, including a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter. But the Lynx never got within 4 points of the lead in the final quarter and for large periods down the stretch, the game felt out of reach.
And at the end of the game, the night belonged to the Mystics and to Natasha Cloud, who reached the 1000-point mark during the game, all of those points scored in a Mystics uniform. After the game, Cloud, who had given up her sneakers to a young fan in the stands, told broadcasters Christy Winters Scott and Meghan McPeak, “We haven’t even touched the surface of what we can do.”
My girls first game and @WashMystics WIN, but huge shoutout to @T_Cloud4 for giving them her game worn shoes!!! 👟🏀 @NBCSWashington @realweshall #TogetherDC #washingtonmystics #MysticsLynx pic.twitter.com/sUY3RESjuH— Samad Khawaja (@Samadk79) June 9, 2021
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Image courtesy of Washington Mystics twitter.