Mystics Must Shoot Better To Force A Game 4

 

By Patrick Ralph

 

When facing the Seattle Storm this year, opponents have had almost no margin of error when trying to beat the team with the best record in the WNBA. The Storm, who went 26-8 during the regular season, did not earn the top seed in the playoffs for being a run of the mill team this year.

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That is what the Washington Mystics have learned the hard way in the WNBA Finals, as the de facto Eastern Conference champions now find themselves down 2-0 in the best-of-five series and on the brink of elimination. With the series shifting from Seattle to Washington, D.C. for Game 3, the Mystics now must win in order to force a Game 4 on their home floor.

Meanwhile, Seattle is just one win away from a three-game sweep and its first WNBA championship since 2010. In order to prevent Seattle from closing out the series on the road and bringing Washington’s season to an end, the Mystics will need to play better.

For Washington, it starts and ends with their offense. Through the first two games of the series, the Mystics have not shot the ball well.

In their 89-76 loss in Game 1 last Friday night, the Mystics shot just under 44 percent from the field and an ice-cold 14 percent from three. In their 75-73 defeat in Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, the Mystics shot just under 41 percent from the field and failed to make a single three-pointer during the entire game.

Yes, the Mystics went 0-for-16 from beyond the three-point line in Game 2. You are not reading that stat incorrectly.

Comparatively, the Mystics shot nearly 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from three during the season. Washington was a top-five three-point shooting team in the league this year.

While their field goal percentage over the first two games of the series is just slightly lower than what it was during the regular season, the Mystics cannot expect to win when they shoot that poorly from the perimeter.

Over the first two games, the Mystics were 3-of-37 from three. Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud, and Kristi Toliver each have made one triple in the series. On the other hand, Elena Delle Donne is 0-for-3 so far from deep in the Finals. That equated to roughly seven percent shooting from three-point land in the first two games for Washington.

Washington’s three-point shooting has been a telltale sign of how it has played during the regular season and the playoffs. In the two playoff games they lost to the Atlanta Dream in the semifinals, the Mystics shot only 26 percent from three. But in four playoff wins against the Dream and Los Angeles Sparks, the Mystics shot 40 percent from behind the three-point line.

Furthermore, the Mystics shot only 38 percent from the field in its losses to Atlanta in the previous round. However, in its four wins so far during the playoffs, Washington shot 47 percent from the field.

Therefore, Washington’s offense is a strong indicator and barometer to use when evaluating whether or not the Mystics will win.

Lastly, Washington needs its starting five to step up and play better. Through the first two games of the Finals, Seattle’s starting lineup has outscored the Mystics’ starting five 139-106. Delle Donne, Toliver, Cloud, and LaToya Sanders are all averaging less in the first two games of the series than each did during the regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Mystics’ starting five has averaged 55 points per game in losses and 73 points per games in wins during the first two rounds of the playoffs this year. It is clear that the starting lineup sets the tone offensively for DC.

The only bright spot so far for the Mystics has been Atkins, who is averaging a team-high 19 points through the first two games of the WNBA Finals. Atkins averaged only 11 points per game during the regular season and 15 points per game in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

However, one has to give credit to Seattle’s defense. One of the best defensive teams in the league this year, the Storm held opponents to roughly 43 percent shooting from the field and only 33 percent shooting from three. Therefore, it is not that surprising to see Seattle locking up Washington’s offense.

If the Mystics continue to struggle offensively, especially from three, the season will come to an end on Wednesday night at George Mason University.