WNBA: Catching Up With Rookie Natasha Cloud as Mystics Look to Even Weekend Series With Connecticut
WASHINGTON – Rookie guard Natasha Cloud helps the Washington Mystics continue their playoff push with a critical home game Sunday afternoon against the Connecticut Sun. Tip-off from the Verizon Center is 4:00 p.m.
The Mystics (12-8 overall) will try to rebound from Friday’s 86-72 road loss to the Sun.
In addition, a win would give the Mystics the all-important season series victory for tie-breaking purposes. Of course a win by the Sun (11-9) would complete a weekend sweep and give it the same record as the Mystics with 13 games remaining.
Washington is hoping its comfortable surroundings make a difference.
The Mystics have won four consecutive home games.
One of the many reasons the youthful Mystics are a factor in a crowded Eastern Conference is because of Cloud, who has played like a 10-year veteran most of the season.
“I am still learning,” Cloud said following the Mystics’ 66-63 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars last Wednesday.
“That’s a big thing for me even though I am at the midway point of my rookie year. I am still coming out every day and learning new things. I am still figuring out what works and learning from the veterans on the team. I am more comfortable and confident in my game.”
Cloud leads all rookies in assists, averaging 3.1 per game before Friday’s game at Connecticut.
Over her last five games, Cloud has an out of this world assist-to-turnover ratio. She has dished 23 assists while committing two turnovers.
That’s a pretty impressive number even for a seasoned veteran, but for a rookie to do that says something special about the six-foot Cloud, who has started the Mystics last eight games.
“That’s a great stat in this league,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “I would say she’s at a good B plus level and possibly an A-minus considering she’s a rookie. She’s been very, very good on the defensive end, which is probably an A-plus effort there. She’s been very good and she’s going to get better. I’d just like to see her be more aggressive on offense.”
Cloud is averaging 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
She has attempted five or more shots in a game three times and only once since the Mystics third game of the season.
Cloud’s mindset has always been to pass first, second and third, which is a great thing because she has never cared at personal statistics. Though she did acknowledge that being a little more aggressive could make a difference down the stretch.
“I’ve always had that mentality of being a pass-first point guard,” Cloud said. “Teams are beginning to play me for that so I do need to be more of a threat to open things up for my teammates.”
Cloud hasn’t been surprised by much this season. The only major difference from her four years on Hawk Hill at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia has been the WNBA travel schedule.
There have been back-to-backs and life in many airports, including one in which Cloud had to dress like a baby wearing an oversized diaper as part of her rookie experience.
Fortunately she was able to share the experience with her Atlantic-10 and rookie counterpart Ally Mallot.
“That’s been the hardest adjustment for me is coming off a game, traveling to another city and playing a game that night,” Cloud said.
“I am getting used to these long road trips like three games in five days. That’s been the hardest part for me. Getting used to playing so many games in a short period of time because you can go a week in college without playing.”
Cloud and the Mystics still have one long road trip remaining, a key four-game jaunt to Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Atlanta over eight days beginning on Sunday, August 30.
However that’s for later in the season as the Mystics are looking to rebound from Friday’s setback.
They must find a way to control Connecticut guards Alex Bentley, who dropped a career-high 31 points and Jasmine Thomas, who supplied 15 points.
The Mystics fell behind 16-3 and trailed by as many as 15 points before rallying to tie the game at 62-62. The Sun finished the game on a 24-10 run to snap an eight-game losing streak against Eastern Conference opponents.
Emma Meesseman led the Mystics who scored 15 points.
A quartet of Mystics (Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Tayler Hill, Ivory Latta and Bria Hartley) had nine points each. LaToya Sanders had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Cloud handed out four assists in 19 minutes.
“There haven’t been many surprises during this year for me,” Cloud said. “My coaches and teammates have prepared me well. Being in the starting lineup has been an amazing feeling, but either way coming off the bench or starting, I just want to contribute in any way. We’re a young team and we’re doing well. Hopefully we keep it rolling.”
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