WASHINGTON - If there is one thing that Mike Thibault should know about 2019, is that you cannot hide anything. There are cameras everywhere.
The Washington Mystics head coach found that out the hard this past week. At Elena Delle Donne's 30th birthday Coach Thibault broke it down on the dance floor with Aerial Powers.
Instantly, Natasha Cloud broke out her phone and Thibault's dance moves were available for the world to see.
after watching coach thibault dance i can confirm elena delle donne had the littest 30th birthday party of all time pic.twitter.com/77RmMt5bH2— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) September 5, 2019
Let's just say the coach should leave the dancing to his players. Either way, Thibault's attempt at pleasing his team did not go unnoticed. Seeing the coach outside of his normal role left everyone with smiles and left his players wanting more.
"I have no comment," LaToya Sanders said when asked about Thibault's dance moves. "We had a good time at Elena's birthday party. It was nice to you know, see him kind of relaxed and you know cutting a rug on the dance floor. So we were all out there just having a good time and it was a much-needed stress reliever type day for us."
Delle Donne herself was shocked at how much her coach put out there, "Is he going to be okay?... He can drop it lower than I thought. That's impressive."
It gave the team a rare break in the heat of a playoff push. Allowed them to relax and reset as the team attempts to go one step farther than 2018 when they made the WNBA Finals.
Before Thibault tried to recreate Footloose, the Mystics were rolling through the season grind. They had played 13 games in the past month, winning all but two of them and vaulting to the top of the WNBA standings. Yet, unlike past seasons in the WNBA, the Mystics impressive year did not allow them to cruise into the playoffs. The Connecticut Sun had forced Washington to kept their foot on the gas pedal to battle for the No. 1 seed. By virtue of Connecticut winning the regular-season series, the Sun had the tiebreaker, meaning Washington had to keep winning.
Friday's victory over the Wings paired with Connecticut's loss finally ended the race for the top seed. Washington (25-8) has the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage for the playoffs for the first time ever.
The pedal gets to lean back and so does the team, finally. Expect a lot of starters to miss the final regular-season game against Chicago on Sunday. Those that will be sidelined will get to extend the eight-day break, through the double-bye, before their first postseason contest on Sept. 17. Washington gets to skip the first two rounds and go straight to the semifinals as one of the league's top two teams.
It will be much-needed rest for a team that has rolled through competition throughout 2019 and outright destroyed teams.
"Where I want to be [heading into the playoffs], is really healthy," Thibault said on Friday. "With some time off and some practice time, we'll get kind of our rhythm back a little bit. But for the most part, when you're 25-8, and you've won 16 of 18, it's hard to complain about a lot."
Health will be of the utmost importance once the playoffs come around. Last year the team had a hobbled Delle Donne, toughing it out when she clearly wasn't 100 percent.
This season Delle Donne has been healthy for a majority of the season, playing in 30 of the team's 33 contests so far. You wouldn't know it though with a facemask that she has worn since June to go with the knee brace on her left leg.
Kristi Toliver also has been wearing a matching right knee brace, not dressed on the bench. She's been out since Aug. 8. Her availability for the playoffs is still unknown.
Then it's Tianna Hawkins, who's been out for back-to-back games.
Up until this point, they've been pushed and players spending time out on the court longer than anticipated. While it's great to continue to be in an aggressive mindset, it has worn down.
"It's good to have games like this that mean a lot. Because usually you get to coast and it doesn't matter at the end. But it feels like playoffs so it's good for us," Delle Donne said on Friday. "And then yeah we get a nice rest. So it's like 'okay go all out, we'll be alright.'"
It goes without saying that everyone on the Mystics needed this break. The fact that it's prolonged only benefits them and their championship aspirations.
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