Atkins and Charles Spark* Mystics Rout of L.A.

By: Hannah Oberman-Breindel
Posted: June 11, 2021

Continuing her career year, Ariel Atkins had 23 points (knocking down an insane 70% of her shots) to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals as the surging Washington Mystics beat the Los Angeles Sparks 89-71. In the win, Tina Charles had 20 points and 10 rebounds, passing Lisa Leslie to move to second on the WNBA all-time double-double leaderboard. 

The Mystics controlled the game from the start to finish. At the half, they led 45-35, with 11 assists on 16 made shots. In a mid-game interview, Associate Head Coach Eric Thibault explained that ball control had been a point of emphasis leading up to the game. “We always have to be willing to get one more action,” Thibault said. “We’ve got to not just settle for taking something right away.”

The ball movement was excellent all evening. Washington finished with 18 assists compared to 13 for the Sparks and shot 42.3% from deep over the course of the game. 

As was true in their previous game against the Lynx, the Mystics came out of the half with fire. They closed the third quarter on a 20-9 run and never looked back. The starters were mostly on the bench in the fourth quarter, and seemed to take great joy in cheering their teammates on (and in dancing during the media time out. Thanks, @kareemcopeland for capturing this most important in-game action!).

Washington’s bench showed up as well down the stretch. Kiara Leslie scored 8 points in 13 minutes. Theresa Plaisance had 11 points and was a monster on the defensive end with 6 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. 

The night marked an emotional return for Kristi Toliver, who was facing her former team for the first time after leaving DC for LA as a free agent before the 2020 season. “That’s my point guard forever and always,” Natasha Cloud said in the postgame interview. “She did so much for the organization. She played through injuries to get us a championship.” 

Still, Cloud put admiration aside and held the former Mystics leader to only 3 points. Overall, the game felt like a complete effort on both ends of the court.  The Mystics outrebounded the Sparks 43-31 and no Sparks player scored more than 11 points. 

Much has been said about how the Mystics are not yet playing at full strength. That’s the scary thing. They aren’t. Elena Delle Donne hasn’t suited up yet, Emma Meeseman is playing for Belgium, and Alysha Clark is out for the season with a Lisfranc fracture. But watching the game tonight, the team looked cohesive, seamless, and strong, with multiple dangerous scoring threats and a lock-down defense. “This team gives you so much confidence,” Atkins remarked during the postgame press conference. “All across the board, we give each other confidence because we do believe in each other. And it’s fun to play for a team like that.”

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Image courtesy of Washington Mystics twitter.

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