Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Mystics are set to kick off their playoff run on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm against the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Semifinals. You may have followed the entire journey to this point, or you may just joining in on the fun, hoping to hitch a ride on the bandwagon of a great team.

If you are in that second group, you're in luck. Here is what you need to know about the 2019 Mystics as they gear up for the postseason...

They are historically good: The 26-8 Mystics weren't just the best team in the league this season by their record, they were dominant to a degree rarely seen in the WNBA. Washington scored the most points per game (89.3), had the most assists (21.9), the fewest turnovers (11.8) and the highest field goal percentage (46.9). 

The Mystics had the best offensive rating (112.9) with an 11.3-point edge over the second-best team, the Chicago Sky. With the sixth-best defensive rating, the Mystics' 14.8 net rating was 10.7 points better than the next-best team, the Las Vegas Aces. 

Washington's offensive rating is the best ever, ahead of the 2000 Houston Comets who were at 109.1. Their 53.6 effective field goal percentage is also an all-time best. Basically, no one has ever scored as efficiently as this year's Mystics.

Delle Donne could be MVP: Mystics star Elene Delle Donne may take home her second WNBA MVP award. She had another monster season with 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while posting the first 50-40-90 season in WNBA history. She shot 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 97.4 percent from the free-throw line.

 

Delle Donne is also healthy this time around. Last year, she battled a left knee injury that limited her during the playoffs and contributed to the Mystics demise in the Finals.

They make lots of threes: The three-point shot has never been more important in basketball and the Mystics are better at it than anyone else in the WNBA. They led the league in three-pointers made and attempted, and were second in percentage this season. They hit 36.6 percent, second only to the Aces, on 25.4 attempts. Their 9.3 made threes per game were 1.8 more than the next team, the Connecticut Sun. 

The total numbers are impressive, but so is the Mystics' versatility of perimeter threats. Delle Donne is 6-foot-5, yet she hits her 43 percent on 3.9 attempts per game. Meesseman is a 6-foot-4 center who makes 42.2 percent on two attempts per game.  Then they have Myisha Hines-Allen, Tianna Hawkins, Aerial Powers, Kristi Tolliver and Ariel Atkins, who all shoot 35.7 percent or better from long range. 

Their defense is elite: It isn't just scoring and outside shooting that makes the Mystics great. They also have one of the best defenses with the athleticism and length to frustrate opponents. Washington was fourth in points allowed (77.3), sixth in defensive rating (98.1), fifth in turnovers forced (14.5), eighth in opponent field goal percentage (43) and seventh in opponent three-point percentage (34).

That led to both Atkins and Cloud earning second-team All-Defense this season. LaToya Sanders also drew consideration and, if you ask her teammates, was a glaring snub.

Run it back: The Mystics are on a mission to clear up some unfinished business. Last year, they made it all the way to the WNBA Finals, only to lose to the high-powered Seattle Storm.

The path is there for another deep playoff run, this time perhaps with a different result. 'Run it back' has been a mantra for the team all season. You will see it in hashtags on Twitter. They want to get back to the Finals and take home the first championship in franchise history.

Thibault could get a ring: Head coach Mike Thibault has enjoyed a long and distinguished basketball career that includes two NBA championships as an assistant with the Lakers in the early 1980s. He is the winningest coach in WNBA history.

But Thibault does not have a WNBA championship on his resume, at least not yet. He has lost in the Finals three times including twice during his days with Connecticut. Winning a title would represent a breakthrough for him and would make for a great story of someone finally reaching the mountaintop in their sport.

Toliver has been hurt: The biggest question mark for the Mystics going into the playoffs is the health of All-Star guard Kristi Toliver. She has been sidelined since Aug. 8 with a right knee contusion, an injury that forced her to miss 11 games. According to Thibault, she is "probably" going to play in Game 1 but if she does, she will be on a minutes restriction.

 

The Mystics closed the season well without her, winning 10 of the 11 games she missed. But Toliver is an important piece as a veteran leader and because of her three-point shooting and passing.

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