Mantras, slogans, mottos, whatever you want to call them are not unusual in sports nowadays and frankly, have become somewhat tiresome and insignificant in the age of social media. However, the Mystics’ mantra of “Run It Back” seems to carry actual weight. This team is ready to finish the job they started last year and win the WNBA Championship. On Wednesday night, they took their latest step towards getting back to the Finals.
Beating Seattle with extra motivation
DC pounded the defending champion Seattle Storm 88-59 on Elena Delle Donne bobblehead night. Natasha Howard blitzed the Mystics early with 13 first quarter points, but the Mystics locked her down for just 11 points the rest of the game. Behind a rowdy crowd at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington pulled away in the second half and had six players finish with double-digit scoring nights. Head Coach Mike Thibault lauded his team, particularly the bench, for their focus and energy in the win.
“This was a terrific win in a lot of ways because we did not play well in the first quarter, we struggled on both ends of the floor. That bench group, particularly Tianna, Shatori, and Emma gave us the jolt we need. They got the crowd into it, they got their teammates going,” said the WNBA’s all-time leader in wins as a coach. “As a coach, you can’t ask for much better than that. All these wins like that [with]different lineups, mixing and matching, not knowing who is going to play. I’m really proud of them for that.”
While every coach and player will tell you that no game is more important than another, this win had added significance for the team. The Mystics came into the game 1-1 in the two previous games with Seattle this season. The loss came in particularly irritating fashion as they gave up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter. Between that loss, the Finals sweep, the season series on the line, and the EDD bobble buzz, the Mystics had all the motivation they needed.
“The season series is a big deal and our players have talked about that. We gave them one away here when we played them earlier in the year. Our players hadn’t forgotten about that,” said Coach Thibault.
Season series wins are important for playoff seeding
Getting the season series win against Seattle represented a big step in the Mystics playoff run. With just nine games left in the regular season, DC is jocking for the top seed to earn the double-bye to the semifinal round and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Winning season series against playoffs teams gives them tiebreakers for the top spot.
“It’s huge. We were just talking about season series and having no fear of tiebreakers going into the playoffs,” said Point Guard Natasha Cloud. “Really just establishing ourselves and giving ourselves some separation at the one seed right now. Just putting ourselves in the place we want to be in the playoffs.”
These games put some added pressure on the Mystics. But Elena Delle Donne told the media that the pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing (after an interjection from Cloud that “Elena Delle Donne is the MVP PeriodT” and some goat noises).
“We’ve been having a lot of these series games coming up and it’s important to close them out, especially on our home court. With how the standings are, you gotta win every night or someone is going to take your spot. We can feel that pressure, but it’s good pressure. It’s fueling us to stay focused and continue to improve,” said EDD after putting up a pedestrian-for-her 14 points on 4-6 shooting and 6-6 from the line.
With the win against Seattle, the Mystics have now won the season series against four of the top eight teams in the league standings: Seattle, Las Vegas, Minnesota, and Chicago. However, DC lost the season series to their biggest competition for the top seed, the Connecticut Sun. Their loss in the first game of the season without EDD could prove crucial if the teams meet in the Finals.
Only one season series against a true threat to the one-seed remains undecided against the Los Angeles Sparks. The Mystics look to win that series on August 27th as LA comes to the ESA. Expect a similar atmosphere and energy to Wednesday night’s win in that matchup. And hopefully, more victorious BAHHHHHHH-ing from Natasha Cloud.
Shey Peddy: Washington’s own Jackie Moon
Shey Peddy’s road to the WNBA is long and winding. Like so many players in this league, she has been cut, had to go overseas, thought about quitting the game. In DC, she has finally found a place in the W. Everyone should read Ava Wallace’s Washington Post profile on the Temple product to appreciate her journey and perseverance.
However, Peddy’s journey after getting on a team has been just as strange. After getting cut upon Kim Mestdagh’s return from Eurobasket, Peddy joined the team’s coaching staff. She was then called back into playing action after Kristi Toliver got hurt this month. While she has played sparingly, the bouncing back and forth has been a unique experience.
“I really can’t describe [the transition from player to coach to player]. It’s a weird feeling to be in the lockerroom when I’m used to being with the coaches and vice versa. But I’m enjoying the moment,” she told me after the game.
There have been plenty of player coaches in basketball history, most notably Bill Russell winning two championship as head coach and starting center of the Boston Celtics. But the first example I think of is Jackie Moon, the player-coach-GM of the Flint Tropics in the SEMINAL SPORTS MOVIE Semi-Pro. (Don’t @ me). When I mentioned the comparison to Shey, she responded with a big laugh.
“I can do it all. I done hit every part of the WNBA you can hit so it’s really a great experience,” she said with a smile.
She still needs to hit the Front Office to become the true Jackie Moon. But with Shey’s determination and basketball IQ, don’t be surprised to see her do it all in the W.