Washington

Mystics clinch final postseason spot to close regular season

Washington

Call it a miracle. Call it improbable, unbelievable, poetic, fitting, a sign of perseverance or whatever you like. But bottom line, the Washington Mystics completed an incredible postseason push and make it to the WNBA playoffs.

Beating the Atlanta Dream in the final game of the WNBA regular season sealed the deal for Washington. It was the team's fifth win in six games to finish the season with a 9-13 record, good enough for the eighth and final WNBA postseason slot.

Washington underwent a terrible series of games that most teams would not be able to recover from. The Mystics lost 12 out of 13 games to put them in a 4-12 hole with just two weeks of games left on the season. 

Considering the entire 22-game season is played within the confines of a bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic, the comeback is an incredible one for the Mystics. Games are every other day. There's little to no escape from basketball and in a year of social justice initiatives, it was easy for players to get overwhelmed mentally and emotionally. 

Only five players from the 2019 championship-winning team played after a series of opt-outs and Elena Delle Donne's injury recovery. Two weeks into the season, the team lost another veteran when Aerial Powers left the bubble due to a serious hamstring injury.

With all the losses it would have been very understandable for the team to cave and start thinking about their return home for the first time since early July.

 

Still, with Most Improved Player candidate Myisha Hines-Allen leading the way and Emma Meesseman taking a more facilitator-type role, the team remained patient. It took a while, but the team cleaned up their half-court offense, Leilani Mitchell got going and the team played some of their best basketball of the season. 

At almost a flick of a magic wand, the Mystics turned around their losing woes in a close loss to the league-favorite Seattle Storm. The offense was finally playing at a high level, maximizing movement and taking advantage of the Myisha Hines-Allen mismatch. Defensively, they played with an intensity that had not been seen all season. 

Some losses by other teams helped along the way, but Washington did enough. It also helped that they had three wins in the bank from opening up the season. 

The Mystics will start their title defense against the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. It will be a winner-take-all single-elimination contest for the right to advance to the second round.

Phoenix won both head-to-head contests during the regular season, both coming while Washington was in the midst of a massive losing streak.