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Previewing Mystics vs. Storm WNBA Final Game 2

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Previewing Mystics vs. Storm WNBA Final Game 2

Jewell Loyd took a cue from NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

Loyd broke out of a shooting slump Friday night with a game-high 23 points as the host Seattle Storm defeated the Washington Mystics 89-76 in Game 1 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals. Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at KeyArena.

Loyd, the former Notre Dame star who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, made 9 of 12 shots from the field, including making all three of her 3-point attempts.

"When you're a shooter, you've got to have short-term memory," Loyd said. "I think I saw a post where Kobe (Bryant) was like, 'If you're not open, still shoot the ball,' and I was like, I made that my screen saver, because I'm like, I need to be able to shoot and just have short-term memory."

Loyd also scored 23 points in Game 1 of the Storm's semifinal series against Phoenix. But she had only 32 points in the next four games, going 9 of 36 from the field and 2 of 12 from behind the arc.

"As basketball players, as athletes, you're going to have off nights, you're going to have tough stretches, and what I've seen from Jewell from Year 1 to Year 4 is you know the bounce back will come," teammate Sue Bird said. "She understands she had a rough series (against Phoenix), she knows it, we all know it, everyone knows it.

"I'm sure people have been talking to her about it. But I was pretty confident to be honest, not like I knew this would happen, but I was pretty confident that she was going to come out and just be herself."

League MVP Breanna Stewart added 22 points for the Storm, who led by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter.

Washington's Elena Delle Donne, playing with a large brace on her left knee after suffering a bone bruise in the Mystics' semifinal series, had 10 points and seven rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter. Guard Kristi Toliver was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range.

"We can talk about my knee after this series," Delle Donne said. "Excuses are for losers. If I wanted to be 100 percent, I wouldn't have come back. I knew coming into this thing I was going to have to figure out a different way to play. It might not be the same basketball I've been playing all season, but I still feel like I can impact this game."

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For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Washington Wizards have breathed new life into their season, now with revitalized hopes of making the playoffs. On Monday, they will get a shot at one of the teams standing in their way.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington, the Wizards host the Detroit Pistons in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and the Pistons are ninth.

With a win over the Pistons, the Wizards would move into a tie for ninth, just one spot out of the playoff picture. Though more than two months remain in the regular season, the Wizards can gain some valuable ground.

Whether that is on their mind going into the match-up depends on whom you ask.

"It's definitely too early to talk about it," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"I think there are some very important games [coming up] where we go head-to-head against the guys who are around us in the standings," guard Tomas Satoransky said, singing a different tune.

Satoransky doesn't just see an opportunity against the Pistons on Monday, he mentioned Friday's game against the Magic as well. Orlando is one spot behind the Wizards in 11th.

The standings are one thing. Even more important for the big picture is head-to-head records, which determine tiebreakers for playoff seeding. The Wizards are 0-1 against the Pistons, having lost in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

A win on Monday would tie the season series with only one meeting left, on Feb. 11. If the Pistons win on Monday, they would lock up the tiebreaker.

The Wizards have reasons to be confident going into this meeting with the Pistons. While they are playing their best basketball of the season, Detroit has been in a tailspin. Going back to Dec. 3, they are 7-18. Only the Cavaliers have more losses during that stretch.

In those 25 games, the Pistons have been 28th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.6) and effective field goal percentage (49.6). They have committed the third-most turnovers per game (15.6).

Injuries haven't been the reason, but the Pistons have a few to report entering Monday's game. All-Star center Andre Drummond missed their last game on Saturday with a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Guard Ish Smith is also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury.

The Wizards have a chance to beat a reeling team and gain some control of their playoff hopes. We'll see if they take advantage.


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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

The Wizards are set to add guard Gary Payton II on a 10-day contract to fill their 14th roster spot. Here are five things to know about the Wizards' newest player...

1. Payton II is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton Sr. His father made nine All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams, won a title with the Heat on 2006 and is considered one of the best defensive players of all-time. Payton starred for the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990s, so naturally Payton II is originally from Seattle.

2. His father also had one of the best NBA nicknames of all-time. He was known as 'The Glove.' So, according to Basketball Reference, Payton II is sometimes referred to as 'The Mitten.' 

3. Payton II, a point guard, is listed at 6-foot-3 and shoots left-handed. He has appeared in 29 total NBA games split between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He was Thomas Bryant's teammate in L.A. 

Payton II also spent time with the Portland Trailblazers in 2018-19 training camp before getting released in October. Since then, he played with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the G-League where he averaged 19.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.4 steals in 13 games.

4. Just like his father, Payton II played his college ball at Oregon State. With the Beavers, Payton II became the first player to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year twice. He averaged 2.8 steals per game in college.

5. Payton goes by Payton II, not by Payton Jr. That's because his half-brother is Gary Payton Jr. Payton Sr. named two of his sons after himself. There is also a third Payton brother named Julian, according to Payton II's college bio.