The Mystics have a lot to lose and a lot to gain in their next four games, three of which are against the Atlanta Dream.
Believe it or not, it’s not even that out of the question for them to be in second place by the end of the month due to the fact that they go head-to-head with the Dream so many times. On the other hand, they could also lose four straight and be back on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
September will get easier for Washington – they only play a winning team once. However, it would be hard for them to emotionally recover from falling all the way to 12-17 and having all their momentum killed.
So these next four games are crucial and the focus will be on Atlanta, a team the Mystics haven’t defeated since Sept. 9, 2011. Last year they had a lot of games against the Dream bunched together at the end of the season also and were swept four games to nothing. This year they have lost to Atlanta by 10 at home and 11 on the road.
The Sky have established themselves as the best team in the East, but Atlanta may be the team that gives the Mystics the most problems. The Dream are like Washington in that they can get contributions from their entire roster and beat teams with their hustle and effort. They have the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the league and the second worst free throw percentage, but they make up for it by outworking teams defensively and grabbing a league-high 11 steals per contest.
In their two wins against the Mystics this season the Dream have pretty much followed their formula of playing a team game. In their first win, they had five players in double figures scoring and in their second non-superstar rookie Alex Bentley had 17 points.
However, a big part of Atlanta’s team could be missing on Sunday and that is Sancho Lyttle, who has been out sicne July 9 with a broken foot and is unlikely to play against the Mystics. Lyttle had 12 points and nine rebounds in the Dream’s first meeting with Washington and did not play in the second.
Atlanta went 1-7 in their first eight games after Lyttle’s injury before winning on Friday, but has also played well at times without Sancho this year.
Even if they don’t have to face Lyttle, the Mystics have a monkey on their back with this Atlanta team. Angel McCoughtry is on fire, having scored 30-plus points in four of the Dream’s last five games and she may be the WNBA’s most intimidating player to face right now. Add to her fellow All-Star Erika de Souza, Tiffany Hayes, Bentley, former Mystic Jasmine Thomas and Armintie Herrington and you realize the Dream have plenty of weapons, even if they don’t have a second superstar like some teams.
So Washington will have their hands full, but they’d like to think they can steal one or two from Atlanta, unlike last year’s WNBA-worst Mystics team.