Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Gets Monumental Win Beating Atlanta in Overtime
It was quite the monumental victory for the Washington Mystics Wednesday night with another upset of the Atlanta Dream, this time in Georgia, and the 85-80 triumph in overtime has put the Eastern Conference doormats of the previous two seasons on the cusp of the playoffs.
It also placed an absolute must-win situation in the hands of the New York Liberty Friday night when the fifth-place squad goes head-to-head with the fourth-place and defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever at the Prudential Center at 7:30.
"This team is learning to be resilent," said Mystics coach Mike Thibault, who after being bounced by the Connecticut Sun over the winter took up with Washington and has injected the first overall feel-good atmosphere aura over the Mystics since the glorious season of 2010 when they tied New York with 22 wins at the top of the East and claimed the No. 1 seed in the playoffs on the East side.
"A year ago, from watching them from afar, these are the games they couldn't win, but we found a way to win those this year," Thibault said.
A main reason is that while Washington (14-15), which won just 11 games combined the previous two seasons. had bad luck in the draft lottery by not landing one of the coveted top three picks, the Latta pick turned out to be decent compensation.
That would be former North Carolina star Ivory Latta, whom Tibault signed as a free agent and has been a key force in the Mystics renaissance.
And actually, landing the fourth pick was not all that terrible either, with former Ohio State star Tayler Hill making contributions such as Wednesday night when she and Latta joined former Duke star Monique Currie with 15 points each.
Two weeks ago this was going to be a tough stretch for Washington that had to play the Dream (14-12), which had bedeviled the Mystics two straight seasons, three times with a visit from the East-leading Chicago Sky also part of the mix.
But Washington has won 5-of-7 games and also Wednesday got help from veteran Crystal Langhorne, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mystics also hooked up with Atlanta, which is now five games behind Chicago in second with a visit to the Sky ahead on Saturday, at as time the Dream are hurting big time.
Sancho Lyttle had missed 14 games, Tiffany Haytes' knee is acting up again and Armintie Herrington was sidelined with a concussion.
It got worst in overtime when Angel McCoughtry, who leads the WNBA in scoring, went to the sidelines with an injured right ankle.
She also9 got beat near the end of regulation when Currie fired a three-pointer to force the extra period with 6.4 seconds left.
Latta had 10 assists and also talked about the ability for her, Currie and former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn to shake off technical fouls assessed in the third period in the tightly-contested game that had 17 lead changes until Washington went ahead with 3:29 left in the overtime just before McCoughtry went down after scoring 23 points.
Jasmine Thomas, another former Duke star, had 15 points, while Erika DeSouza scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
"In games like this, lead changes aare going to happen, tempers are going to flare up," Latta said. "But it's the teams that buckles down that will win, and that's what we did."
Lstta will be taking up a coaching career at her alma mater this winter assisting North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell, who next weekend will inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketballl Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., along with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who is going in for her playmaking ability as one of the all-time point guards in the women's game.
Atlanta, which began the season red hot, has now lost its last three games and 11 of 15.
"That was a crazy game," Thibault said. "I don't know if anyone ever got control of it. We kind of let them off the hook early and we made plays at the end when we needed to."
Washington is 1.5 games behind Atlanta, one game in front of fourth-place Indiana (12-15) and 2.5 in front of fifth-place New York (11-17), which got hammered by Western leader Minnesota 73-47 at home at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Tuesday night.
Thibault previously coached Connecticut all 10 years after the franchise moved from Orlando and rarely missed the playoffs.
But the Sun (7-20) have been decimated by injuries and are now on a Western swing that could put them into the lottery considering they are five games behind Indiana and the fourth playoff spot with seven remaining.
That includes Thursday nigt's visit to the Seattle Storm (14-14), which is closing in on a playoff spot in the West despite missing All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird all season because of recovering from surgeries for injuries.
Washington's remaining games consist of two with Connecticjut, where the Mystics will be the favorite; one home with Chicago next Sunday, a visit to Indiana on Sept. 10 and a wrap up with New York on the final day of the season Sept. 15.
Indiana after New York on Friday, has two games with Connecticut, goes to Atlanta and Chicago, and hosts Washinjgton and New York.
So it will be a very steep slope to overcome for New York if the Liberty don't prevail Friday night even if coach Bill Lsimbeer on Tuesday night got philosophical saying his team could win its next set of games.
But it will do no good if Washington and Indiana can get wins to stop New York from making inroads.
Meanwhile, if Chicago wins oveer Atlanta, the Sky clinch a do-no-worse than series tie with Atlanta and would clinch the next tie-break for tops in the East by clinching the best record against the conference.
Reports from teams and the Associated Press were used to write this blog.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad