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Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon in time for the semi-finals? Here's what you need to know

Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon in time for the semi-finals? Here's what you need to know

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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Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Five weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas returned to practice Sunday and was a full participant.

Originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks in recovery, Thomas is on track to play much sooner than anticipated. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks wouldn’t go as far to say Thomas would be ready for Washington’s season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, but he did seem optimistic that he’d be playing in the near future.

Thomas signed a one-year minimum deal with the Wizards in July. Once healthy, he’s expected to be the team’s starting point guard with Ish Smith and Justin Robinson coming off the bench.

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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason


The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.

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