Mike Thibault made it clear: He had no easy answer to what happened Sunday afternoon, when his Washington Mystics let a 15-point halftime lead vanish.
Washington Mystics plummets to overtime loss to Connecticut Sun
“I don’t have a simple answer for you,” the Mystics coach said. “If I had, I would have fixed it.”
The Mystics (13-10) followed one of their best halves with their worst. They shot an impressive 56.2% in a dominating 20-minute opener for a 49-34 halftime lead. It appeared the Mystics had benefited from having four days between games, the bulk of the season so far for the team that has played the most games in the WNBA. That streak following Tuesday’s rout of the visiting Atlanta Dream allowed for some much-needed practice time and a chance to rest his legs, but it didn’t seem to matter after halftime.
The Mystics’ first four possessions of the second half: turnover, turnover, long missed three points, rushing missed three points. After dominating in the first half, the Mystics only managed 9 of 37 shots (24.3%) after halftime. Their 10 points in the third quarter was a season low – then they had seven in the fourth. The Mystics were 0 for 9 behind the arc after halftime, and Thibault didn’t think they read the defense particularly well.
“I thought the first four minutes of the third quarter were key,” he said. “[Connecticut] played at a much more aggressive pace, especially on the defensive side. … And then we missed some of the same shots we made in the first half. It takes the life out of a team. You can’t start like that. I said to our players earlier in the locker room: “We gave them confidence in the first two minutes of the second half.” ”
Still, the mystics had their chances. Natasha Cloud missed a layup with 6.3 seconds left that could have won the game in regulation time. Connecticut’s Brionna Jones blocked a short jumping Cloud with 2.8 seconds left in overtime that would have tied it, then Myisha Hines-Allen missed a three-pointer when time expired.
Ariel Atkins had 18 points, four steals and four assists. Alysha Clark added 13 points and seven rebounds, including the 1,000th of her career. Hines-Allen grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds but shot 4 for 14 for eight points.
“I think we’ve stopped being so aggressive,” Atkins said. “In the first half, you saw us looking up, looking down, looking down the lane. I feel like when we came into the second half we were more focused on going beyond the perimeter. … I don’t think I was that aggressive in the second half, not only chasing shots but also for my teammates.
Alyssa Thomas led the Sun (14-7) with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Courtney Williams had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“The defense in the first half was pretty solid,” Mystics center Shakira Austin said. “But that four-minute drought where we relaxed a lot, it hurt us. They got most of their points just from our simple turnovers and just getting second chance opportunities.
Here’s what to know about the loss of the Mystics:
Elena Delle Donne was scheduled to play on Sunday, but the Mystics announced Friday that she would not travel to Connecticut. Thibault said medical staff made the decision to hold her after she played the previous three games, including her first consecutive road games in Seattle and Las Vegas on June 23-25.
“We were just recommended not to do it,” Thibault said. “I’m not making the final choice on that, so it’s been recommended that we don’t do that and get that game. [Wednesday at Atlanta] and we get another break with an all-star break [next weekend] and then somehow be in a better position in the last third of the season.
Austin was back with the team and in the starting lineup after missing practice Wednesday following the death of his grandfather. The No. 3 pick in this year’s draft had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 29 minutes.
The Sun and the Mystics entered the day separated by a standings game. The head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker for playoff seeding and home-field advantage, so the Sun’s victory could carry significant weight at the end of the season.
“We missed three wide open ones. We missed layups on the rim. We handed it over,” Thibault said. “I say this all the time, and it’s not more complicated: if you have an open lay-up and you don’t do it, well, what can someone else in your team or your team do? coaching staff to solve this problem?