One possession perfectly summed up how the Mystics day went in their first loss of the season. It just so happened to be the final possession with the opportunity to tie or win it all against the Chicago Sky.
An inbounds play in the frontcourt had little separation from the players on the floor. Just before a five-second call, Ariel Atkins forced the ball to Emma Meesseman at the mid-wing. Failing to get space on a turnaround drive to the rim - and no one moving to an open lane - Meesseman attempted to toss the ball to Leilani Mitchell in the corner. Chicago was there to deflect the pass and hold on for the 88-86 win.
No separation, Meesseman not able to get a shot, and not much movement on the offensive end are all how not to describe the Mystics offense.
"Tonight, honestly, we beat ourselves. I don't think Chicago beat us," Aerial Powers told reporters postgame as the Sky could be heard celebrating in the background. "We didn't start off with the energy we usually do and we weren't there for 40 minutes and that's on us."
The game started out slow in a contest that was billed to be a high-scoring affair between two of the most potent offenses. Washington only mustered 37 points in the first half, Chicago not any better with 35.
Tiredness was a factor (the team's fourth game in eight days), size on the opposing end definitely had an impact, but ultimately it wasn't what Mike Thibault and his staff has come to expect from this group. There were several broken plays, bad, unforced turnovers and not enough offense to bail them out of some shortcomings.
"We just didn't play Mystics basketball today for the whole game," Myisha Hines-Allen said postgame. "I think that's what it boils down to."
There was little support from the bench (eight total points) and with their worst shooting performance on the season (41.9% from the floor and 36.4% from deep), Chicago matched them nearly the whole contest.
But a big problem that was amplified during this game was the lack of offensive scoring from Meesseman. She had the ball in her hand on the final possession and was unable to create a shot on a one-on-one matchup. Thibault wanted her to become more a facilitator this season, but she has yet to have the impact that became the standard in last year's WNBA Finals.
Her nine points were a season-low.
"We're wishing she would shoot a little bit more," Thibault said simply in his postgame availability.
On Saturday she missed some shots early which seemed to alter her confidence. There also didn't seem to be the same burst and separation ability to help her get open.
Through the first three games, Washington was okay letting her be a backseat driver. The games weren't close and several of her teammates had the hot hand. It was different against Chicago and her lack of scoring was evident.
At the same time, it's not all on Meesseman. The team had 14 combined turnovers and ran into five blocked shots.
Even the great 2019 Washington Mystics got tripped up once in a while. It only too four games into the 2020 season, after boasting their dominant offensive prowess in every game prior, to get tripped up this time.
Now, they get a rare three-day break and Thibault is going to make sure he hits some golf balls.
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