Cloud and all the Mystics, ready to go soon.
The Mystics looked like an attacking machine in the first half of their 94-81 win over Sparks, their fourth win in the past five. Washington (15-10) took a 53-44 lead at halftime, matching the all-time top scoring record of the season, in the first game after the all-star break. 94 points is also a high season.
“I missed their trouble [behinds],” Cloud said with a laugh. “We are full of energy. The first half is like and the second half is timing. We know what we have in our dressing room and so I think we are also seeing a different focus.”
The first quarter 15-7 gave the Mystics a 24-14 lead as Washington never took the lead after falling 2-0 behind. Washington, who shot 50.8% from the field, was almost giddy throughout the morning penalty shootout and that energy was channeled into the game.
The Phoenix Mercury hosts the Mystics on Thursday.
“We had energy in training yesterday,” said coach Mike Thibault. “We had a good focus this morning. We shot the ball a little better, although we didn’t make backups tonight, and it paid off. “
Elena Delle Donne showed exactly why she’s a two-time MVP by matching the season’s high with 26 points on a 10 to 14 spin, including 4 to 5 from outside the arc. This is her second match in a row to reach 26 points. The ball was moving and it was a brilliant night of attack for the whole team, but Delle Donne kept making plays that few others in the league could match. Sparks sent multiple defenders through the night in the 6-foot-5 forward position and that still didn’t matter as she unleashed a flurry of pumped, up-down and out-of-fashion fakes to create space. Thibault calls it a “classic game” from the franchise platform.
“The best player in the world,” said Cloud. “She allowed our offense to flow. She makes my job so much easier. Teams have to really figure out what they’re going to do to sustain her and then play the rest of us. So only she was present.
“Elena doesn’t even have to touch the ball if she doesn’t want to and she makes all of our jobs so much easier. Just her poise, her leadership, her experience and her IQ on both ends of the floor just makes us better.”
However, Los Angeles was still hanging around and was only 5 games behind with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter when Delle Donne and Cloud closed the doors. The Mystics used a 14-4 win to take a 15-point lead with Delle Donne burying three pointers and Cloud adding one of his own. Cloud scored 10 of her season-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, while also having nine assists and four rebounds.
“When Tash scored and attacked, we were scary,” said Delle Donne. “She worked a lot on her game and you see that and you see confidence in her. … I don’t know how Tash does it. Her motives are ridiculous. The number of minutes she played. She always plays the best offensive player on the other team, and then she has to come down and handle our offensive behavior. But she does an extraordinary job.
“I never wanted to play with anyone else.”
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 12 points from the bench and Ariel Atkins finished with 10 after playing at the All-Star Game on Sunday.
Katie Lou Samuelson and Brittney Sykes scored 16 each as the Sparks were without Nneka Ogwumike, who suffers from a fallopian tube disease. While revenue was an issue the last time Washington ventured to Los Angeles, Mystics scored 27 points out of 18 Sparks sales this time around.
The game has a little extra incentive for the Mystics, who acquired the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 in a day-long deal with the Atlanta Dream in April. Atlanta has the Sparks’ first pick next year, so the Mystics will benefit from Los Angeles falling as far down the rankings as possible.
“I think about it every week when I watch them play with other people,” Thibault said before the game. “I never wanted to wish [ill] on a lot of teams, but when you have a chance to get their pick and it could be better than the team we have, you have to feel the same way. “