Mystics open a challenging road trip in search of consistency

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LOS ANGELES – Coach Mike Thibault made it sound simple, even though he knows it isn’t, as he sat on the field Tuesday at the Arena, hours before his Washington Mystics prepared to start their three-game road trip against the Los Angeles Sparks. . His team looked like one of the best teams in the NBA at times, racking up wins against the top three clubs in the standings. The group also experienced catastrophic moments, including Thursday’s loss to the New York Liberty that started the season 1-7.

Consistency has always been a problem for these mystics.

“It’s interesting. It helps when you have a full lineup, which is what we had on Sunday,” Tebow said. We had a full assortment. We had a day to fully prepare. It was the only full day we had to prepare for in the previous eight or nine days, whatever it was. . . . I think consistency comes with the consistency of your lineup and the consistency of some preparation time. Then if you hit the ball better, [you look] also consistent. I don’t have any simple answers for that now other than trying to prepare it, and we had a very thorough preparation from a movie point of view for this. But we don’t have the same squad today.”

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It’s no surprise that the Mystics are any different when you’re not playing Elena Delle Donne, and they should. The team takes a cautious approach to her back and is diligent in managing her pregnancy. You didn’t make the flight to Los Angeles because of the scheduled rest day. Delle Donne missed seven games entering Tuesday’s competition and the team is 3-4 in her absence, although she beat defending champion Chicago Sky despite leaving after playing just over seven minutes when her back narrowed. The two-time MVP leads the team in points and blocks per match and ranks second in rebounds per match. When she’s not available, the team naturally misses her.

However, the inconsistency in the lineup goes beyond just Delle Donne. Ariel Atkins, Mischa Hines Allen, and Shakira Austin are the only players to appear in every game for the Mystics. With Sunday’s win over the Connecticut Sun looming, the starting line-up of Delle Dawn, Shakira Austin, Atkins, Alisha Clarke and Natasha Cloud played together for 35 minutes. Injury, illness and external commitments also kept players out of the squad.

“I think we’re learning how to deal with it,” Atkins said. “It’s not something you really want to get used to. But at the end of the day, it’s kind of what it is. . . . you just have to deal with it. He loves [Clark] He said, if we lock him up at the defensive end, then the offensive end will come.”

Clark, a two-time defensive pick, who advocates defense as a way to achieve consistency isn’t shocking either. She wants the Mystics to be the best defensive team in the league. They lead the WNBA in defensive rankings (94.9) and points allowed per game (74.6). The points are the lowest number mystics have allowed since 2015.

That’s what made the recent losses to Liberty and Phoenix Mercury particularly frustrating – plenty of defensive lapses.

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“I think just understanding that defense is what feeds us,” Clark said. “No matter who’s in the lineup, as long as everyone sticks with that and buys that, I think you can start to see more consistency.”

This consistency will be sorely needed this week; There won’t be much time to exercise during a trip to Los Angeles, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Games are held every two days, and the team will mostly watch the video and try to recover as much as possible during the travel days. Not only is the schedule brutal, but the pool will also be tested by the Aces (13-2), who had the best WNBA record entering Tuesday, and Storm (10-6) with the fourth-best record in the league.

However, Sparks presents an opportunity for two wins – in a way. The Mystics have the right to swap first-round picks with Atlanta Dream after trading the #1 overall pick for the 2022 draft. The Dream picked Ryan Howard while the Mystics went back to third and took Austin. The first-round pick will come from Sparks (5-9), so Washington is looking to lose games for a chance at a higher pick in 2023. The Mystics could affect that Tuesday night.

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