Washington

Mystics avenge first loss of slump behind Mitchell's career night

Washington

What better way to break out of a funk than against the team that put you there in the first place?

After the Mystics started the season with a 3-0 burst, the Chicago Sky brought them down to Earth. A month later – and 12 losses in Washington’s next 13 games – it is a win over the same Sky that could ignite a Washington run to the playoffs.

And much to credit for the Mystics’ second win since July 30 was 12-year veteran Leilani Mitchell. Flying around with a newfound burst of energy, the 35-year-old was in complete control of the Mystics' offense, recording only the second double-double of her career.

In the first half, it was feeding the ball to her teammates. In the second, it was her feasting on her own separation.

“I think tonight was fun. Both offensively and defensively. We were playing together, playing as a team,” Mitchell said postgame.

“My shots are going in, so it's a little easier to shoot it every time, you know, when you see one go in. But I think from the start in the first quarter we really pushed the tempo. We went back to playing how we were early in the season.”

Mitchell tied her career mark in assists with 11 (eight coming in the first quarter) by halftime, setting her career-best a mere three minutes after. She finished the contest with 12, but simply because her offensive stroke took over.

Not wanting to come out of the game in the final 20 minutes, she recorded 12 of her 20 points for a season high. She also moved up to 15th on the WNBA’s 3-point field goals list with four from long range on Friday night.

 

“Like, when your point guard is on like that and she was getting hype, I mean, it was perfect,” Myisha Hines-Allen said.

Mitchell’s effectiveness was to the benefit of everyone else on the roster. The team recorded 26 assists on 31 made baskets with three other scorers reaching 13 points.

While this hasn’t been the best season for the seasoned player, her best performance comes at a vital point in the season. Entering the game, her 3-point shooting percentage was the second-worst clip of her career. In her previous five games, she was 4-for-16 from deep.

“[This game] shows why we want to sign her so badly. Her character is such that, even with all the adversity we've had, she's continuing to play hard and be a good example for the younger players,” head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “Yeah, she wanted to play with those ones that aren't here but she knows that a year from now, she'll be ingrained into our team. And she'll be a big factor for what we do for the future, so I think that's just the character that she has.”

It was also the result of the momentum the team gained after its close loss to the Storm. Holding Chicago to 69 points marked the second game in a row that the Mystics' defense held its opponent to under 72 points. 

With the win, making the playoffs is now a viable goal for Washington. The team now moves into sole possession of ninth place in the standings and will be either a game or 1.5 games back of the final spot with the Dallas Wings. On Sunday, the Mystics get the chance to make a bigger jump when they face head-to-head.