The Mystics seem to have put the embarrassment of the past two seasons behind them.
With a 6-6 record so far, it seems clear that they will be a decent team this year at worst. The question is, what can they be at their best? Can they take on one of the East’s best teams in a playoff series?
If Washington does make the playoffs, their road to the WNBA Finals could very well go through Chicago. If the season ended today the Mystics would play the Sky in the first round and they would be on the road for Game One. When those two teams meet on Wednesday in Illinois, the Mystics will want to become battle tested against a good team, but they also will be fighting to move up on the Eastern Conference food chain.
Washington has already put forth solid efforts against each of the three best teams in the West and even got the win against Minnesota. However, the biggest thorn in their side has been a team from the East: first place Atlanta. The Dream have been the only team to beat the Mystics by double digits twice so far. Now WNBA fans will get to see how Washington fares against a team that in many ways is just as scary as the Dream.
The Sky went 14-20 last year, but like the Mystics have turned things around in 2013 with an 8-4 record so far. Both teams have been talked about quite a bit in the early going this season – the Mystics for their exciting finishes and positive energy and the Sky for the spectacular play of No. 2 overall pick Elena Delle Donne.
Delle Donne came out in her debut and made herself and her team look like they were for real by leading Chicago to a 102-80 victory over preseason WNBA Finals favorite Phoenix. The Sky haven’t looked back since and are one of the best teams in the WNBA right now. Most recently they embarrassed the Liberty in New York, 93-64, on Sunday.
Of course, the Sky’s turnaround was a little bit more expected than that of the Mystics because they got one of the “3 to See” in Delle Donne. Elena has taken the league by storm, averaging 18.9 points per game and currently ranking at No. 4 in WNBA.com’s “Race to the MVP.” She was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second consecutive week on Monday after averaging 16 points and nine rebounds from July 1 to July 7.
Delle Donne was the greatest offensive weapon in the nation while at Delaware and is already demanding a lot of attention from opposing defenses as a WNBA rookie. While the Mystics have their hands full with her they will also have to deal with guard Epiphanny Prince, who is averaging 17.9 points per game. They will also have to contend with 6-6 center Sylvia Fowles and her 11.6 rebounds per game.
Needless to say, Wednesday’s game is going to be a tough challenge for Washington. But if they win, it will go a long way toward helping their psyche, as well as their position in the standings.