Shorthanded Mystics down Griner, Mercury 71-63


Shorthanded Mystics down Griner, Mercury 71-63

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Mystics faced the Brittney Griner-led Phoenix Mercury Friday night after four straight games against teams headlined by Elena Delle Donne and Maya Moore. Those three players are the WNBA's biggest stars with the 6-foot-8 Griner its tallest. Those matchups provided the playoff-seeking Mystics with a measuring stick.

The conclusion: Washington belongs.

Despite facing the tallest of the headliners shorthanded, the Mystics fended off the defending WNBA champions for a 71-63 victory at Verizon Center.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak, but gave Washington (16-11) a 3-2 record during this challenging stretch.

Thrust into the Mystics starting lineup because of injuries, sparkplug guard Ivory Latta matched her season-high with 24 points. She made all nine of her free throw attempts and scored four straight points late to help seal the win including a floater with 1:38 remaining.

Playing despite a dislocated finger, All-Star forward Emma Meesseman scored 14 points, grabbed a team-high six rebounds and had two blocks in the fourth quarter.

"This was a good test. They're the defending champions. They're one of the favorites for the championship this year," Meesseman said. "It's great for our confidence. ...Just to know that we can play like we did today. That we can beat the good teams."

The swing started with two wins over team with the best record in the WNBA, including a rousing 79-61 road triumph at Minnesota on Aug. 16.

The Mystics then lost back-to-back two-point heartbreakers to the Sky. That meant Friday's matchup with the second-best team in the West would be the difference from a winning or losing stretch. Another loss would mean three in a row before heading out for a four-game road swing.

"This definitely was one of the games we had to have," said Latta who also five assists and three steals without a turnover.

Griner had 12 points, including her sixth career dunk, and nine rebounds for the Mercury, but dealt with foul trouble in the fourth quarter.  Leilani Mitchell led Phoenix with 16 points. The Mercury went scoreless for the final 2:43 after Griner's jumper cut Washington's lead to 65-63.

"We have a defensive identity about us right now," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "Our offense kind of comes and goes at times. ...but as long as you can keep yourself in the games against the good teams, you give yourself a chance at the end to win it. That's all we want."

Actually, the coach covets something else these days: Healthy bodies.

Meesseman hasn't missed any games despite dealing with a dislocated finger. Good thing because Washington hasn't been at full strength lately. Starting guard Kara Lawson (back) and reserve Tayler Hill (ankle) did not face Phoenix. Forward LaToya Sanders played despite a sore knee.

The rash of injuries with seven games remaining led Thibault to viewing the measuring stick angle from a bump and bruises perspective.

"I guess right now I'd put every day as a measuring stick about where we are," he said.

Where they are is in control of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The win increased their lead to 4.5 games over idle Connecticut while lowering its magic number to three. The top four teams in the East - New York, Indiana, Chicago occupy the top three spots - are separated by 2.5 games. Only the Liberty have clinched a playoff berth.

The Mystics reached the playoffs the previous two seasons. This run is different. Being five games over .500 says as much. Washington didn't finish the regular season with a winning record in 2013 or 2014.

"I would say yes," Meesseman said of the different feel. "But we can't think about it yet until we're in the playoffs. We can't think about it too much."

Thibault thought back to his pre-season message when eventually tacking the measuring stick angle.

"I told them in training camp that as long as I feel we're getting better every day, then everything kind of takes care of itself," he said. "Despite the (losses) to Chicago, we got better this week."

MORE MYSTICS: Mystics face tipping point with playoffs approaching

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal


Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”


Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.


For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.


The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.


Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one.