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Shorthanded Mystics get help in unlikeliest of places

/ by Tyler Byrum
Presented By Sandy Spring Bank
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Down their best player and the WNBA’s leading scorer, the Mystics knew they were going to need someone to step up in a huge way to have a chance against the Atlanta Dream on Thursday night. As the night went on, the issue quickly became amplified.

The individual to step up? Long-time role player, and the last forward on the depth chart, Theresa Plaisance.

Plaisance delivered in a way that only the absent Tina Charles (who missed the game to attend her film premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival) could. The 6-foot-5 forward became a swiss-army knife on the floor. She posted-up down low, hit contested threes and had unquestionably the best game of her career.

Posting a career-high 25-points in only the second 20-point outing of her career, Plaisance at times put Washington on her back. The eight-year veteran shot 10-for-16 from the floor and made 5 3-pointers. Her performance was the eye-popping stat of a gritty 96-93 win for the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

And she did it with essentially no depth behind her by midway through the second quarter.

“I’m having a really great day,” Plaisance said unprompted at the start of her postgame availability.

“Scoring has been something that I can do,” Plaisance said, referencing her play overseas in the WNBA offseason. “And we have scorers here, that's not what typically is my role. But tonight, we don't have Tina, Myisha (Hines-Allen) goes down, and I'm the post and to have a successful inside-out game we have to have our post doing something and I thought tonight would be a night for me to be a little bit more aggressive and attacking the rim.”

At shootaround, Erica McCall became the latest injury blow going down with a right knee injury. It sidelined McCall to only sweats for the game and left two post players for the Mystics.

That is until Hines-Allen had to leave the contest in the early moments of the second quarter. Leaving with a left knee injury, Plaisance was the last remaining post player. She was the only Mystic that stood taller than six feet for the remaining 25 minutes.

“We had everything going against us and we just said play free, play together, share the ball, have fun and play as hard as you can and whatever happens, happens,” head coach Mike Thibault said. “Sometimes when you just free your mind up and you just go play, amazing things can happen and that that kind of grit that we had tonight is who we've been about for a long time.”

Plaisance is one who has endured throughout her WNBA career. Recently she recovered from her second back procedure and used this offseason to get back to form. 

Coming to the Mystics, her role was that of one that would come off the bench. Minutes would be behind Charles, Elena Delle Donne and Myisha Hines-Allen. Dropping 20 points as a starter is not what was to be expected.

“I'd be lying if I said I knew that (was in her). I had hoped that she could be a consistent 3- point shooter,” Thibault said. “We just tell every player your turn comes, I mean sooner or later everybody gets a turn, and tonight was her’s.”

“She's in an environment where she can thrive,” said Ariel Atkins, who also had a career-high 32 points. “She's in an environment where she can be her best self and we all accept that and we believe in what she can do. I mean you got the jersey on, you might as well do what you can do. Yeah, she's put in the work, and more than anything she's put in the work to get healthy.”

Against the Dream, Plaisance's role was more important than it typically is. Every now and then, that will be called upon by the non-traditional stars – it’s the next man up mentality. 

“I think what you saw tonight was also just an opportunity to do something different," she said. "You never know what's going to happen throughout a season, injuries happen. Other things happen. People are sick. Somebody doesn't do something, next man has to be read, and that was something that I pride myself on throughout my entire career is just being ready and when your number's called. And tonight, I had an opportunity to do something a little bit outside of my usual role.”