With so many integral players missing from the Mystics roster this season, it made sense for Washington to turn their attention to 2021 when all of those players come back. Use this unique season as a springboard to prepare for the deeper roster construction with everyone back in the fold.
Playoffs weren't even on head coach Mike Thibault's mind at the beginning of the season, nor was it a talking point of the team after their impressive 3-0 start. They never even discussed it.
But that perspective changed now that the standings have leveled out and the team is starting to come together. Only a game outside of the final playoff spot entering Tuesday, with nine games remaining on the schedule, all the focus is now on getting the postseason and making the playoffs for the franchise-record fourth straight time.
So for the first time all season, Thibault brought it up at practice.
"We did today for the first time in a while," Thibault told reporters on a Zoom call on Tuesday. "I said despite everything that's happened, we're a game and a half out of the playoffs, and we kind of can control our own fate."
"Let's, let's take care of our own business. You know a game and a half is easy to make up in nine games if you win the right game so I think [the team is] very aware of that."
The WNBA has just passed the midway point in its season and so far there have been three versions of the Mystics. The one that couldn't miss a shot during the first week of the season, the team that offensively fell apart during a seven-game losing streak and the team that has finally rebounded in the past three games.
Through that, they are 10th in the league standings, 4-9 on the season. One game behind the Indiana Fever for 8th place, a game and a half behind Connecticut for 7th, two and a half behind Phoenix.
That's not too shabby for a roster that is limited to only 10 players and four of which have all missed time this year due to an injury.
"If you ask anyone on the team, I don't think anyone has forgotten that we're still in this playoff run, and the games recently we've been in and we're learning from them," Myisha Hines-Allen said on Tuesday. "I think this team can still like make the playoffs, we can still be in the playoffs even when we were losing all those games, it was about refocusing and dialing in you know how can you personally help the team get better one possession at a time and take it everything one possession at a time. But I just feel like we're definitely all still looking to make the playoffs I. That's why we play basketball is to compete and to win and definitely feel like we're starting to click, we're starting to move the ball a lot better.
"Defensively, we still have to get better of course but like the things that we were messing up before we're starting to get better so the team that you seen when we were losing those six, seven straight, that I don't think we're the same team."
The way the schedule has shaped out has allowed the Mystics to be in this situation. Washington plays the only two teams below them in the standings and three of the four teams directly ahead of them.
"We've got to make a push, you know, we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs. And so these chances, when we actually get to work on things are super important because we need to be better for games," Leilani Mitchell said.
As Thibault said, they don't have to win all of those games, just the right ones. The first right one is Wednesday against the Atlanta Dream, who is Washington's only win in the month of August. A win and the playoff hunt begins.
And once they get to the playoffs, who knows what could happen in such an odd season.
"If you make the playoffs, you know, anything can happen," Thibault said.