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Mystics clinch No. 1 seed in WNBA playoffs with Emma Meesseman coming to form

Mystics clinch No. 1 seed in WNBA playoffs with Emma Meesseman coming to form

WASHINGTON - A season predicated by dominance gave the Washington Mystics a slight speed bump Friday night. As victories of 20 or more points have become standard for Washington, a scrappy Dallas Wings gave them all they could handle in the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Nevertheless, with a Washington 86-73 victory over the Dallas Wings and a Connecticut Sun loss, the Mystics clinched the No. 1 seed in the 2019 WNBA Playoffs.

Unlike most opponents though, the Wings did not fold once the Mystics jumping up by 22 points early in the third quarter. The non-playoff team did not play like one. Dallas played physical and aggressive, totaling 22 fouls to try and slow down the high-powered Washington offense. A mix of double teams and aggressive chase-down person defense kept the Mystics on their toes for the whole game.

“It was such a kind of herky jerky game for a while with foul calls and the physicality. I think it’s good for us to play against physicality like that, because the playoffs are going to be a little bit more like that,” head coach Mike Thibault told reporters after the game, before Washington officially had clinched the No. 1 seed. “It’s a great win…. To decide our own fate, that’s a nice position to be in.”

It wasn’t the typical win for the Mystics, besides not having a 20-plus lead throughout. It displayed a showcase for Emma Meesseman, who led the team in scoring for only the fourth time this year.

The Belgian player showed out for arguably her most impressive game of the season. She matched a season-high 25 points, scoring 23 in the first half alone. At one point she was 9-for-10 shooting and started taking a shot every time the ball found her hands. She ultimately would finish11-for-17 going cold in the second half.

But unstoppable was the only way to describe her in the first 20 minutes. Patrolling the post, slashing toward the rim, stepping out for 3-pointers, the Wings had no answer. Her play was mesmerizing, performing in a manner that the team had yet to see on the court this season.  

“She’s a monster. She’s so efficient. She can score the ball at will, so [she] was huge for us tonight,” Elena Delle Donne said after the game.

It was only the fifth start of the season for the 6-4 forward. Throughout the season Meesseman has been a vital bench player for the Mystics averaging 12.6 points. Often she has been the back-up for Delle Donne when she needs rest. With Kristi Toliver out and taking advantage of a big lineup, Meesseman got all of the attention.

“We got her the ball in all kinds of places. She got the ball in the post. She got it on the pick and pop. She got threes. I couldn’t believe she passed up a three down in front of [Dallas’] bench in the fourth quarter,” Thibault said.

The process to get her playing at this level has been slow throughout the season. Of course they would also like it without Delle Donne being held to only 16 points. They would also want to see it for a full 40 minutes over just a half.

But as their first playoff game is nearly two weeks away, Meesseman has come to form at the right time.

“Our biggest missing piece [from last season] was Emma Meesseman,” Natasha Cloud told reporters postgame. “That’s been the biggest difference in our play and where we are right now as a team. She’s phenomenal. It’s fun to watch her. It’s almost like you’re looking at another Elena Delle Donne.”

Another Delle Donne is never a bad thing.

The team remained without one of their key All-Stars Toliver, who out at least until the playoffs. She has been missing from the active roster since Aug. 8. After last season’s injury troubles in the Mystics’ 2018 WNBA playoff run, no one wants to push Toliver back.

While closer than perhaps the Mystics (25-8) would have hoped, Friday gave the team their 25th win on the season. Further building on the franchise-record that the team currently holds, Washington will get to enjoy a double-bye to start the playoffs.

Taking the top seed for the playoffs marks another first on the Mystics historic season. In addition to a franchise record for wins, they’ve also set the WNBA record for made 3-pointers in a game, the WNBA’s wins by 20 or more points, just to name a few.

Mission accomplished for the regular season as the team has ‘ran it back’ and more. All that is left is to match that effort in the postseason.

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Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

WASHINGTON -- Wizards guard Jordan McRae made his way around the parish hall of St. Francis Xavier in Southeast Washington slowly, stopping to greet kids one-by-one and bending his 6-foot-7 frame down to take pictures and shake hands. He handed out bags of school supplies to underprivileged youth that said 'work hard, play hard.' He told them each "good luck in school."

It was a day McRae got to do something he feels like he could have done more of last year. He was giving back to the D.C. community and helping out with a cause he believes in. Last season, when he played through the uncertainty of a two-way contract, he didn't have a real chance to lay down roots in the Washington area.

But now back for a second year with the Wizards, and with an NBA contract and a possible rotation spot to seize, McRae feels a new sense of comfort in D.C. Though he has been in town for a year, now it is home.

"Since being in the NBA, this is probably the best opportunity I've gotten," he told NBC Sports Washington.

"Last year, it was tough. It was different from what I've been through before, just the unknown. Not knowing was the hardest part."

McRae, 28, came to the Wizards last summer after rehabbing a shoulder injury and playing overseas. But he had two years of NBA experience under his belt, including a championship ring from the 2015-16 season with the Cavaliers.

At the time, a two-way contract made sense for McRae. He had to prove he was healthy and needed a team to take a flier on him. The Wizards did, but they couldn't offer McRae much of an opportunity to play. They were entering another year with high expectations and had loaded up on veteran players in the offseason.

Things, of course, didn't go as planned for the Wizards but McRae didn't exactly benefit from the turmoil and roster turnover. He spent much of his time in the G-League, appearing in more games with the Go-Go (31) than he did with the Wizards (27). 

That was partly because late in the season McRae was close to maxing out the 45 days his two-way contract allowed him to spend at the NBA level. The Wizards had financial incentive to keep him in the G-League and in the final weeks of the season, when the two-way clock was no longer an issue, he suffered an Achilles strain that ended his season a few days early.

McRae felt like he showed the Wizards what he is capable of in his relatively brief time on the floor, but is looking forward to a more extended opportunity this season. 

"I'm a person who can play multiple spots. I can be on the court with Brad [Beal] or without Brad," McRae said. 

"I'm just looking forward to it. The opportunity is there. This is what you work for all summer, this type of opportunity."

There could be an opening for McRae at back-up shooting guard. The Wizards didn't address that position specifically this offseason like they did a year ago by trading for Austin Rivers. McRae may be their best option behind Beal.

It also may be the ideal spot for McRae, whose best attribute is scoring. He led the G-League last season with 30.3 points per game and showed some flashes at the NBA level as well. He scored 20 points or more twice and dropped 15 points in eight minutes against the Cavs on Jan. 29 when the Wizards nearly stole a victory after the benches were emptied in a lopsided game.

McRae can get buckets quickly. He can also play some point guard, which should come in handy this season as the Wizards play without All-Star John Wall for at least several months. They are also resting hopes on Isaiah Thomas as one of their top two point guards and he only played 12 games last season.

The Wizards' roster is in transition and it may not yield many wins in the 2019-20 season. The Westgate sportsbook set their over/under at 28.5 wins. That is about 10 short of playoff contention, even in down years in the lesser Eastern Conference.

It could work out well for McRae, though, as he could get much more playing time. He is excited about that possibility and also the style shift they hope to undergo as dictated by managing partner Ted Leonsis and general manager Tommy Sheppard.

"We're gonna be young and obviously we have to change up our style," McRae said. "We want to be one of those teams where teams don't want to play, a team that you know they're diving for loose balls, playing hard and playing fast."

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Two-time Wizard, three-time NBA champion announces retirement after 15 seasons

Two-time Wizard, three-time NBA champion announces retirement after 15 seasons

Former Wizards' guard Shaun Livingston announced his retirement from the NBA after 15 seasons on Friday morning.  

The former Wizard shared the news via Twitter and Instagram posts. 

Livingston expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to play in the league. 

“After 15 years in the NBA, I’m excited, sad, fortunate and grateful all in one breath. Hard to put into a caption all of the emotions it takes to try and accomplish your dreams. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Anybody that has beat the odds understands the mental and emotional strain it takes to inspire yourself on an uphill war, let alone inspire others. “The injury” gave me a chance to find and prove to myself (and the world) that I wouldn’t be defined by my circumstances. With my time in the League what I will be most proud of is the fact that my character, values, and faith were tested, and I persevered.” 

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After 15 years in the NBA, I’m excited, sad, fortunate and grateful all in one breath. Hard to put into a caption all of the emotions it takes to try and accomplish your dreams. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Anybody that has beat the odds understands the mental and emotional strain it takes to inspire yourself on an uphill war, let alone inspire others. “The injury” gave me a chance to find and prove to myself (and the world) that I wouldn’t be defined by my circumstances. With my time in the League what I will be most proud of is the fact that my character, values and faith were tested, and I persevered. To my pops that told me to “go get the big ball” I THANK YOU. To my Grandpa that always showed me there was more to life than basketball I THANK YOU. To my Uncles that helped raise me like I was one of their own, THANK YOU. To my wife and kids...the future IS BRIGHTER than our past, and I couldn’t see myself taking on this chapter without you. To all of my teammates, coaches, TRAINERS, staff, my journey is a collection of experiences, and those of you that helped me along the way, THANK YOU! To all the fans and anybody else that inspired me, supported me, cheered for me, or even said good words about me, THANK YOU. “The greatest gift we can give is service to others” #Raiseaglass 🍷

A post shared by Shaun Livingston (@sdot1414) on

Livingston entered the league right out of high school. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. 

In 2007, as a member of the Clippers, he suffered a horrific knee injury, one of the most grotesque in NBA history. He returned a year and a half later, as a member of the Miami Heat but played in just four games.

He played for the Wizards on two separate occasions.

The first was in 2010 when he joined the Wizards in February and played in 26 games, starting 18. He signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats that offseason, playing in 72 games in 2010-11 before being traded that offseason to the Milwaukee Bucks. A year later, he was traded to the Houston Rockets, but was waived before the start of the 2012-2013 season.

The second time was in November 2012, when the Wizards signed Livingston again, playing in 17 games and starting four before being waived in December of that year.

Livingston made five straight NBA Finals appearances and won three championships with the Warriors (2014-2019). 

Over 833 career games, Livingston averaged 6.3 points, 3 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game.  

Wizards star, Bradley Beal shared his support for Livingston commenting “S Dot! It was a pleasure my guy!” 

Congratulations to Livingston on a successful career and good luck on his future endeavors! 

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