The Mystics came into this season with a lot of doubters because of their record last year. The Shock also earned a lot of doubters by losing their first four games of the season.
And while both teams have had good moments this year, when they meet on Sunday in Washington, both will have losing records and be in the bottom halves of their respective conferences. So just like in their first meeting of 2013, they will both have something to prove.
In what was the season opener for Washington, the Shock fell, 95-90, to the Mystics in an overtime game in Tulsa back on May 27. Ivory Latta put on an inspiring 27-point performance in that game to lead the Mystics past the team she played for from 2010 to 2012.
One game into their rebuilding process, Washington had gotten an instant sign that Latta was going to make the Mystics and exciting team in 2013. Ivory would average 19.8 points in the first five games of the season and the Mystics jumped out to a 4-1 start. But Latta averaged just 12 points in the next five contests and Washington has fallen to 4-6.
Now, the Mystics are back at square one. They have only defeated one team with a winning record (Minnesota) and after losing five straight they need to re-prove that they are for real this year. They are hoping that they can once again use an exciting win over Tulsa to spark a hot streak.
But although at 3-9 the Shock have the third worst record in the WNBA, they are not going to roll over and die for the Mystics. One of their wins came against the third best team in the league in Chicago and they have also played close games against Minnesota, Phoenix and L.A. They let the Mystics steal a nail-biter on their home court – it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them return the favor.
The Shock came into this season with high hopes after drafting the best point guard in the draft in Skylar Diggins. Diggins is coming off a two-point performance in Tulsa’s loss to the Fever on Friday but is the third leading scorer in the WNBA among rookies, thus living up to her reputation as the third best player in her draft class. She has reached double figures in scoring five times so far and double figures in assists twice, though never in the same game. She has come extremely close to her first WNBA double-double a few times, including in the Mystics game where she had nine points and 11 assists.
Diggins, like Brittney Griner, has had to adjust to not being the best player on her team right away after being a superstar in college. Instead of Diggins, 6-3 forward Glory Johnson has been Tulsa’s best player thus far. The second year player out of Tennessee is seventh in the WNBA with 17.8 points per game and tied for second with 10.6 boards per game.
The Mystics will also have to worry about 6-8 center Liz Cambage, who has only played in four games this season, but returned from injury on Friday. Cambage is averaging 16.5 points per game and scored 21 against the Mystics earlier this season. Johnson had 20 in that game and Roneeka Hodges was Tulsa’s high scorer with 22 on 6-9 shooting from long range. Nicole Powell, Riquna Williams and Candice Wiggins are all capable of hitting from downtown as well. So the Mystics are going to have their hands full, as the Shock can be dangerous both in the frontcourt and backcourt.
Both teams could use a break in their schedule, but they won’t get one. There is so much parity in the WNBA right now and it’s just unfortunate for both of these teams that they’ve ended up on the losing side of some close games.