Ivory Latta and Monique Currie combined for 47 points to led the now 3-1 Washington Mystics to an upset, 85-80, victory over arguably the best team in the WNBA in the Minnesota Lynx Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Currie had 13 points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half, while Latta added 11 in the third quarter alone to top a Minnesota team that had defeated the WNBA preseason favorite Phoenix Mercury by 20 just two days earlier. While the Lynx were up 60-33 during the break of that contest, Rebecca Lobo tweeted this:
— Rebecca Lobo (@RebeccaLobo) June 7, 2013
Not only were the Lynx dominating a team led by Diana Taursi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner, but they were the two-time reigning Western Conference champs and had three returning Olympians. They had the best regular season record in the WNBA two years running and a player in Maya Moore that looked like she was about ready to take off and fulfill her MVP-level expectations.
All things considered, Washington would have had nothing to be ashamed of if they had started the season 2-0 on the road and 0-2 at home, with those losses coming to the Lynx and the still undefeated Dream.
But the Mystics weren’t satisfied with a 2-1 start that included a win Friday night against their head coach Mike Thibault’s former team, the Connecticut Sun. Currie had this to say on Twitter after that 66-62 win over last year’s No. 1 seed out of the East:
Right back to work tomorrow night
— Monique Currie (@Mocurrie25) June 8, 2013
And Currie and the Mystics were rewarded with something that eluded the team for all of 2012: a winning streak.
For Currie, it was just another June 8, like the one five years ago where she set her career high in points with 28 at Connecticut. She was on track to easily surpass that mark on Saturday, but didn’t need to as Latta took over with 17 second half points.
Currie is now the third scoring option on the Mystics with the addition of Latta, but for the Mystics to improve upon their WNBA-worst from offense a year ago, they will often need Latta, Crystal Langhorne and Currie all to have big games.
Currie had been the one member of that trio lagging a bit behind in the early going this season, averaging just 8.3 points per game coming into Saturday.
“I think I needed to step up,” Currie said after the win. “I’m one of the veterans on the team and they look to me to be a leader. I needed to come out aggressive and that’s what I did.”
Latta, on the other hand, has now been the Mystics’ leading scorer in each of their three wins, and didn’t shy away from hitting big shots yet again against the Lynx, a game she played with the recent passing of her grandfather on her mind.
“I truly thank this organization, because they have really picked me up these last couple of days because it’s been extremely tough,” Latta said. “With these girls, I didn’t think about it too much. They had me smiling, laughing, everything.”
Maya Moore scored five points in a two minute span twice in the first half – once at the very beginning of the game and then again right before the break. But in between these stretches the Mystics shut her down, as she only had 12 points at halftime. Moore finished with 22 on the game to lead Minnesota and Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson chipped in with 21 apiece.
Brunson had probably the best stat line for anybody on either team with 21 points and 17 boards. And Lindsay Whalen, as usual, had the game-high with nine assists to go with her 10 points. However, this quartet could not provide the formula for the Lynx (2-1), whose other players combined for just six points. Minnesota was also out-shot from the field 49.2 percent to 38.5 percent.
“We can’t come out and let teams get a lead and have that advantage on us,” Brunson said. “Yah we have great scorers on this team, but we’re not a team that tries to outscore. We’re a team that wants to get in there and grind it out and play defense and win games that way.”
The Mystics’ largest lead of the game was 12, while the Lynx led by no more than three. However, down the stretch it just seemed like the battle tested, two-time Finals participants would sneak away with a victory.
With 1:56 remaining in the fourth, Brunson tied the game at 73-73 with two free throws. On the ensuing possession it seemed like Latta was destined to take the potential tie-breaking shot, but she dribbled under the basket and back out, unable to find a good opportunity. She then passed it to undrafted rookie out of UNC Tierra Ruffin-Pratt who was standing behind the 3-point line and Ruffin-Pratt fearlessly drove to the hole for a bucket and a foul.
Ruffin-Pratt missed her free throw, but gave the Mystics a 75-73 lead with 1:33 remaining. From that point on, the Mystics went 8-8 from the line and got a clutch Kia Vaughn field goal from about the free throw line to close out the game as if they were the team with big-game experience.
“It would be an understatement to say it was a great win,” Thibault said. “Every win right now is a great win, but to have the weekend that we did and beat the two teams with the two best records last year was a terrific weekend.”
“We needed to come in here and get a win for this home crowd and that’s what we did,” Latta said of not putting home win No. 1 on hold any longer for a D.C. fan base that saw the Mystics go 4-13 at Verizon a year ago.
After wins on back-to-back nights, the Mystics will now have to wait until next Sunday, June 16 for their next game, which is a matchup with the defending champion Indiana Fever (1-3) at Verizon. The Lynx will host the San Antonio Silver Stars (2-1) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.