Rapid Reaction: The Mystics End The Dream, 78-72 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Rapid Reaction: The Mystics End The Dream, 78-72

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Updated: June 6, 2017

Truth About It.net is, as you’re well aware, a blog dedicated to covering the Washington Wizards—and we did just that until their timely demise at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Wizards front office is currently knee-deep in the throes of working out prospects for the upcoming draft, which frees the our staff—more specifically, me—to write about the other professional basketball team in town: the Washington Mystics.

We have not forsaken the Wizards in any way shape or form, we’ve simply decided to make room for the Mystics as well . . . starting with Sunday afternoon’s victory against the Atlanta Dream.

Here is the Rapid Reaction:

M.V.P.

With a stat line of 23 points and a game- and career-high 15 rebounds in 33 minutes of play, it seems almost silly to consider anyone other than Elena Delle-Donne (or Della-Donne, as Ted Leonsis would say). But it was not simply the number of points and rebounds she scored and grabbed that served as the catalyst for the Mystics victory.

The Dream took their first lead of the game with 43.7 seconds left in the game, and after Coach Mike Thibault called a timeout, Delle-Donne took a pass from Kristi Tolliver, then drew a foul just beyond the arc—in fact her feet were so close to the 3-point line, the referees had to review the play to confirm that not only was in the act of shooting but also that a 3-point shot had been attempted. The refs confirmed it was indeed a 3-pointer, and Delle-Donne nailed all three free throws to give the Mystics a two-point lead.

The visiting Dream called a timeout of their own, and ran a series of offensive sets which led to a 3-point shot, which Bria Holmes missed. Delle-Donne grabbed the rebound, and then alertly dribbled the ball down the court, until she was fouled by Brittney Sykes. Delle-Donne hit both free throws to put the Mystics up five points, which all but put the game out of reach.

She scored 11 points in the first half, and then she scored the Mystics’ first seven points in the second half, but it was her five free throws and one rebound in the last minute of the game, which led her team to victory.

X-Factor.

https://twitter.com/WashMystics/status/871437136003829760

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough found out she was making her first WNBA start just a day before the actual game, when Tayler Hill did not suit up for practice.  She has a tendency to overthink when she’s on the floor, so Coach Thibault and Elena Delle-Donne purposely did not give her a pep talk or words of wisdom. They just wanted her play—especially since she was going to be guarding Tiffany Hayes, who had just been named the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month for averaging 19.8 points and 5.0 rebounds.

“I don’t think they wanted me to overthink it, because they know I think a lot already, so they didn’t want to layer that,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “But they everyone gave me great confidence.”

Walker-Kimbrough only played 18 minutes and had three points and two fouls during that span. The good? She was largely responsible for holding Tiffany Hayes to four points in the first half, but Coach Thibault did not feel as comfortable playing her in the second half—especially when the Mystics offense went cold and the Dream started to heat up:

In the second half, I probably could have played her a little longer for the defensive end but she was very hesitant on the offensive end. So, I made the decision to go with veterans. Every game where she gets minutes like those will help her experience.

When I asked Walker-Kimbrough what grade she would give herself after her first WNBA start, she was refreshingly candid: “There’s a lot of things I need to work on so I probably give myself, like, a C.”

That Game Was … a Sigh of Relief.

Coach Thibault started his postgame presser by mentioning he told his injured players (Natasha Cloud, Tayler Hill and Asia Taylor) that wins like the one his Mystics team had over the Atlanta Dream were the root cause of his hair loss—and with good reason.

The Mystics led 36-18 at one point in the second quarter, thanks to Kristi Tolliver”s four 3-point shots in the first half, and it looked as a blowout was nigh. But the Mystics both closed the first half poorly and allowed Tiffany Hayes to score 20 second-half points, so the Dream scratched and clawed their way back in the game. Coach Thibault implored his team to move the basketball and not take quick shots, but his team did not oblige. He blamed part of that on injuries and part of it on the lack of offensive chemistry, which is why after the game—despite his disappointment with his team’s offensive and defensive lapses—he still reverted to a tried and true coachspeak phrase to convey his feelings, “Any win’s a good win, I guess.”

A Familiar Face.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.