In a perfect world, the night a WNBA athlete is honored with the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award, she goes on to play one of her best games of the season, makes all but one of her shot attempts, sets her teammates up to succeed, all en route to blowing out one of the top teams in the league.
If that’s the case, tonight was perfect for Washington Mystics guard, Natasha Cloud.
Just a few hours after winning the WNBA’s Community leadership award, Cloud took to the hardwood to lead the dismantling of the Western Conference leading, Los Angeles Sparks.
Cloud finished the night with 15 points on 85.7 percent shooting (6-7, 3-4 3P), while dishing out six assists, all in 25 minutes of play.
“She set the tone,” head coach Mike Thibault said. “She was terrific on both ends of the floor. Tash has struggled a bit with her shooting but got herself in a rhythm right away.”
“This was the pressure that we wanted on ourselves when we said ‘run it back’,” Cloud said. “I’m proud of everyone because we stepped up tonight.”
After an uncharacteristic loss to the Chicago Sky last week, coach Thibault went back to basics with an emphasis on solid defensive play - so much so that he had the Stics walk through their defensive responsibilities just before their victory over the New York Liberty Sunday evening.
“Coach got on us after Chicago,” Mystics’ forward Aerial Powers said. “Since then we turned it up - we made them feel us out there. No easy buckets, if they got one it was hard and contested.”
The squad doubled down on that defensive intensity Tuesday night as they held the Sparks to just 66 total points - their season average is 79.8.
“This was one of best defensive performances of the season and that makes me happy because I’m a defensive player first,” Cloud said. “Everything is so much easier when we take care of the defensive end.”
A wise man once said “defense leads to offense,” (probably coach Thibault) and that was found to be true once again Tuesday night.
The Stics posted 95 points on the board for the 11th time this season - the most by any team in the WNBA.
Hall of Fame player and coach, Dawn Staley was in house tonight to cheer on Cloud as she received the Community award, and that meant a lot to the 27-year-old guard out of Philly.
“Super huge,” Cloud expressed with a grin from ear-to-ear. “Dawn is a legend. When I grew up I was watching her, whether it was in the WNBA or at Temple. It’s a huge honor, she’s one of my favorite players and coaches of all time.”
“I love this community, I love this team, I’ve been here for five years. This will by far surpass anything I can do in my career.”
The Stics tied their franchise-best of 22 victories in a season, with four more games remaining on the schedule. They’ve also claimed their eighth straight victory at home, captured the season series over the Sparks 2-1, and are one step closer postseason basketball - that’s when the phrase “run it back” will be put to the test.
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