- The Washington Times
Monday, September 14, 2020

A week ago, the Washington Mystics’ season looked over. The team had dropped 12 of its 13 games in the WNBA’s bubble. The Mystics were missing stars like Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud — two players who lifted them to last year’s title, only to skip the league’s new season. They were even without Aerial Powers, who emerged as the Mystics’ leading scorer before she suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

What a difference a week can make.

After a four-game winning streak, Washington (9-13) clinched the league’s final playoff spot with an 85-78 victory Sunday over the Atlanta Dream. And on Monday, the WNBA named forward Myisha Hines-Allen as player of the week — a reflection of how well the 25-year-old played as she powered her team to the postseason.

Over the week, Hines-Allen averaged 24 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game.

Washington will now prepare to face the Phoenix Mercury in a single-elimination game on Tuesday.

“We want to stay here as long as possible,” Hines-Allen told reporters after Sunday’s win. “We still do have a lot to prove because we are defending. We might not have a lot of our players that contributed to us winning a championship last year but they’re here in spirit and they continue to communicate with us and stay in touch with us.”

The Mystics lost four projected starters prior to the season: Delle Donne, Cloud, LaToya Sanders and Tina Charles — the latter of whom was Washington’s prized offseason acquisition and an All-Star center.

But the absences paved the way for Hines-Allen’s rise. A 2018 second-round draft pick out of Louisville, Hines-Allen was buried on the depth chart the last two years — averaging just 7.8 minutes per game in 2019. This year, she has become the Mystics’ go-to scorer with a career-high 17 points per game. That average has actually now topped Powers, whose 16.3 ppg was leading the WNBA before her injury.

The Mystics have gotten other valuable contributions, as well. Forward Emma Meeseeman, last year’s Finals MVP, is averaging 13-5-3, while guard Ariel Atkins is also enjoying a career year with 14.3 points per game.

Washington needed a run to have any shot at the playoffs. The team couldn’t sustain its 3-0 start and dropped seven in a row.

Washington’s fortunes, however, started to flip when the team pulled out a 79-69 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sept. 4. Though they dropped their next game, the Mystics then rattled off four straight wins. Winning five of their six was enough for Washington to sneak into the last spot in the eight-team field.

“The work we’ve done the last few weeks when most teams would have quit has paid off,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault told reporters. “It’s a great, great testament to how they’ve hung in. It’s just a wonderful feeling anytime you win. But to do it how we’ve done to get in, it’s a great feeling.”


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