Image courtesy of hoopfeed.com
Greetings to all of you hoops fans from the morning after the Mystics most thrilling win of the season, an exhilarating game of back-and-forth runs that ended with Washington prevailing over Atlanta, 96-93.
To set the scene: the Mystics went into the game knowing they’d be shorthanded. Multi-hyphenate talent (and leading scorer) Tina Charles was at her film premier at the Tribeca Film Festival. Erica McCall had injured herself prior to the game and was not available off the bench. To make matters worse, double-double machine Myisha Hines-Allen exited early in the game with a left knee injury and did not return. (And on that front, let’s all hope that Hines-Allen, 2020’s Most Improved Player runner-up, does not have a serious injury. There’s been no update yet.)
On Tuesday, the Mystics were in Atlanta and suffered their most lopsided loss of the season to this Dream squad, 101-78. Last night’s rematch was a different story. Though the Dream outperformed the Mystics in almost every statistical category (rebounds, steals, turnovers, blocks), the Mystics scrapped, clawed and found a way to win. For much of the game, it looked like Mystics players simply refused to lose.
The Mystics got a career game from Theresa Plaisance, who started in place of Tina Charles. Plaisance scored 25 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. She went 5 of 8 from 3-point range. In the press conference afterwards, tongue in cheek, she said, “I’m having a really great day.”
Ariel Atkins scored 32 points, going an absurd 9 of 10 from the foul line and 10 of 15 from the floor, including this hustle three in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
Natasha Cloud was one rebound shy of a triple-double, with 10 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds.
Odyssey Sims hit a jaw-dropping three pointer from the corner with 4.4 seconds in the game to bring Atlanta within 1 point, 94-93. But Ariel Atkins hit the free throw awarded to the Mystics after a technical foul on Atlanta’s Crystal Bradford, and then Natasha Cloud hit 1 of 2 free throws to close out the game.
In the press conference afterwards, players were full of praise for each other. “Theresa Plaisance can shoot the frickin’ basketball,” Ariel Atkins said. “She’s not here by accident. She’s worked her tail off to get back to playing shape. I want her to know that she can do it. She’s capable, more than capable.”
About Atkins, Natasha Cloud reiterated what she has been saying all year: “If Ariel Atkins is not an all-star, you all rigged it. She’s the best 2 guard in the league. Period. PeriodT.” (The “T” on the second “period” seemed implied. #CountIt.)
The victory was Coach Mike Thibeaux’s 350th, making him the winningest coach in WNBA history. Theresa Plaisance made sure the press corp noted that “Coach got a little shower. Ice cold refrigerated water” because specifics are important.
There was much to celebrate about this win. About the shorthanded team that was on the floor tonight, Natasha Cloud said, “I wouldn’t want to go to war with anyone else.”
These players go to war on the court every time they play. And off the court, they’re warriors too, fighting for equity and justice. Tina Charles’s Game Changer, her second movie to premiere at Tribeca, is a documentary about Tanya DePass, “a lifelong Chicagoan and African-American gamer, [who] is determined to make the gaming industry more inclusive for everyone, including people like her.”
Answering a prompt by The Next’s Jenn Hatfield (@jennhatfield1), Natasha Cloud took a minute to speak about the federal government’s recent designation of Juneteenth as a national holiday. “Talk about Juneteenth [as] a day of celebration because it was the day that we were finally set free from bondage. But don’t be fooled by the crumbs that it is. We want the whole meal…we still need to do real, actual work within our legislation to create a more equitable country for Black and Brown people.” (The whole quote is here and worth reading in full.)
This Mystics team, simply put, is full of extraordinary athletes and people who fight for each other night in and night out. “I’m so proud of this team,” Atkins said. “Everyone brought their best selves and then brought a little bit more than themselves.” Simply put, everyone brought heart. How could you not root for a team like this?
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