As the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday evening, arguably the Mystics' best all-around effort in the past three weeks resulted in the same outcome as has become the norm for Washington. Another loss, this time at the hands of the league-leading and championship-favorite Seattle Storm.
Unlike the other losses they have compiled though, this one was a little bit different. The Mystics stayed competitive from the opening tip, which is a lot more than they can say for several of their losses this season. They tested the best team in the league and in the final minute were within two possessions of the lead.
Even in a losing effort, Washington limited the fourth-best offense in the WNBA to only 71 points, the Storm's lowest total since the Mystics defeated them in July.
"Other than the first quarter, in a lot of ways we outplayed [Seattle]," head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. "This looks more like the kind of legitimate, all-out effort that we can give. I thought for good portions of the game our defense was really good... If we give that kind of effort, every night and we stay on the same page defensively, we can win some games this season on occasion."
Taking away the first quarter where the Storm shot 62.5% and had eight early points from Jewel Lloyd, Washington outscored them 47-45. Coming back from a two-day break, the team's offensive flow and defensive intensity looked the best it has since its 3-0 start. MVP candidate Breanna Stewart was limited to 16 points on 4-for-17 shooting. The Mystics forced more turnovers (13) than they committed (seven) and Emma Meesseman had her best offensive production since Aug. 9.
Even though collectively shots are not falling on offense - and they haven't been for a while now - this performance, against this team, gives Washington confidence.
"Seattle is one of the best teams right now in the league and we did not let them score a lot of points," Meesseman said. "So that kind of felt good, knowing, we can be on the same page on defense, we can overload on them. We can just get together and play good basketball. I think some stretches we really did that. We just have to make sure we do it 40 minutes, In the beginning, we did not do that."
Meesseman's 17 points led all scorers. She called for the ball on the first offensive possession and did not look back. Coming off of a game where she only attempted five shots, it was clear the game plan was to get her enough touches.
The bench was productive as well. Its 27 points were the team's highest since the season opener. One of the contributors was guard Jacki Gemelos, who had 10 points in her sixth game with the team.
"The season is not over yet. We still have a chance to make the playoffs. We just got to get some wins here. And I think we made a good statement tonight against the best team in the league," Gemelos said. "These are games if we play like we did today that we could sneak a couple wins in there and get back in the race to make the playoffs."
Playoffs. A hard-to-believe potential outcome for a team that only won one game in the month of August. Yet, with six contests remaining the Mystics are only 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot. That's entirely possible with half of those games coming against the bottom five teams in the league.
Still, shots have to start going down for this team to even have a chance. But once they do, if they show the effort and fight every night as they did against Seattle, a playoff push is not far fetched.
"The end goal for us right now in the 10th position is to get into that top eight," Gemelos said. "So that's our mindset, that's our focus and that's what we're planning on doing every single day is getting one step closer to that goal."