Washington Mystics head coach Julie Plank was the epitome of business as usual after her team’s big 80-71 win on Sunday against the Seattle Storm, which just happens to be the best team in the WNBA. But the coach still understood that the victory was crucial, not only for a team still learning a lot about themselves, but also for their playoff hopes.
“It just felt like a championship, a playoff-type game,” said Plank after the win over the previously 25-5 Storm at the Verizon Center, pushing the Mystics’ record to 19-12, the most regular season wins in franchise history with three games to go. “We’ve won six out of eight games, and this is kinda how we were playing before the All-Star break,” Plank continued. “We’re in a good rhythm right now, and we know that every game matters …. we haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet.”
“Yet” was evidently the operative word. The Connecticut Sun later lost to the Indiana Fever on Sunday, clinching a playoff berth for the Mystics likely before Plank even left the arena, and also marking another franchise first — the first time the team has ever earned consecutive trips to the WNBA playoffs.
So how did the Mystics do it? It wasn’t easy. On Friday in Connecticut, Seattle rested several of their top players. Point guard leader, and third in the league with 5.6 assist per game, Sue Bird played just over six minutes. Swin Cash, averaging 14 points per game, second on the Storm, also played just over six minutes. And two-time MVP Lauren Jackson, third in the WNBA averaging 20.9 points per game, didn’t even play; the reason cited was back spasms. Seattle lost to a Connecticut team that Washington has been trying to fend off for a playoff berth by 20 points.