Wizards

Wizards

On paper, LaToya Sanders had a six-point, six-rebound performance as a starter in a crucial game for the Washington Mystics. Nothing too much to celebrate, especially behind Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman’s outings, but it’s what not on the stats sheet that is a reason to laud the center. 

Sanders shut down the talented and game-changing Liz Cambage in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals – at least as much as someone can slow her down. Sanders controlled the outpouring of points from Cambage and did not allow her to once get into a rhythm. 

"Hats off is to LaToya Sanders for absorbing the beating that she has to take defending somebody like Liz in the post," head coach Mike Thibault said postgame.

Cambage, 6-8, entered the game coming off her best performance of the series in Game 3. A 28-point night on 75% shooting by her got the Aces their first victory of the series. The manner in which they did so also left one to question their ability to come back in the series. Headlines though were not from the results, they came from what Cambage said in postgame about her opposition. She took a shot at the Mystics' forwards telling them to get "in the weight room or get out of the post."

One of the primary victims of Cambage’s shot was the 6-3 Sanders who has been the primary defensive assignment.

"Toya has been working her ass off every single night to make Liz's job tough. [Sanders has] played phenomenally. I would choose Toya 10 out of 10 times," Natasha Cloud said after Game 4. "I'd choose my undersized forward any day. [Cambage's comments] added fuel to the fire."

 

Cambage scored 25 points to lead the Las Vegas Aces in Thursday’s loss. It was evident after the monster game two nights prior, the Aces were going to attempt to run their offense through her. Sanders was going to have a tall task, along with the rest of the Mystics, to prevent Cambage from doing it again.

And the Mystics center did all she could to disrupt Cambage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Cambage was left open in the high post, forced to her left and forced to her right. When posting up, she was instantly doubled, sometimes tripled-teamed. Every time, Sanders was there. 

Held to 45.5% shooting, it was Cambage’s worst efficiency night of the series. It was not without a cost though, Sanders fouled out in only 25 minutes of action.

Sizing up to Cambage ties a perfect bow to Sanders’ defense on the season thus far. Throughout 2019, the seven-year veteran has drawn tough matchups, often several inches higher than herself. Essentially she is the only post-defense option for the Mystics with Meesseman as a guard/ forward and Tianna Hawkins coming off the bench. But Sanders was more than up for the task. She fit in perfectly with the Mystics offensive system and was a rock in the post.

"I think action speaks more than words. I think we were already motivated after last game. Obviously, thank you for giving us more motivation. That's what we need." Meesseman said.

Heading into this playoff series, Sanders had limited Cambage to a 13-point average in their three regular season head-to-heads. The playoffs were different, but aside from Game 3, Sanders and the Mystics did an admirable job against one of the league’s best.

Just let this series serve as a tune-up for what’s next. The Connecticut Sun also has a dominant center in Jonquel Jones. She can take over a game just like Cambage. 

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