May 26, 2021 

How the Mystics quickly turned a 12-point loss into a 16-point win

Two things that changed and one that didn’t for the Washington Mystics in two games against the Indiana Fever

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Tina Charles and Shavonte Zellous celebrate before the Washington Mystics May 21 game against the New York Liberty. Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra.

In the 52 hours between the Washington Mystics’ first matchup against the Indiana Fever and the second, two things changed and one remained the same. 

The team was able to make adjustments where necessary, and turn what was working into a constant, and go from an 89-77 loss to an 85-69 win between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening. 

Change 1: Defensive ball pressure 

One key difference for the Mystics between Sunday’s and Tuesday’s game against the Fever was the team’s defensive ball pressure. 

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault credited both the pressure on the perimeter and Tina Charles’ defense against Teaira McCowan. He also noted that Charles was able to get good help in the lane to defend McCowan without utilizing a true double team. 

After the game on Tuesday, Charles noted that Washington tried to be intentional with ball pressure, noting that when there’s ball pressure on her guards and they are unable to get the ball into her, it makes it more difficult to succeed offensively, so she knows that is how other post players feel when the Mystics deploy this strategy defensively. 

On Sunday afternoon, McCowan had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. On Tuesday, she was limited to just six points, seven rebounds and one assist. In addition, the Mystics held the Fever to just 20 points in the paint on Tuesday after surrendering 42 on Sunday. 

When talking about defending McCowan, Charles said, “I noticed that when she’s on the block you know she’s not really looking to make a move, but her bread and butter is when she’s literally on the arc and she’s just able to turn. So as long as I had her on the block I was fine.”

After Monday afternoon’s practice, associate head coach Eric Thibault noted that the team felt it did a good job pressuring New York, particularly at the guard position, but that the team was not able to have that same success Sunday against the Fever. In two days, the Mystics were able to turn what was a weakness back into a strength, and continuing to make adjustments quickly will be critical for the Mystics as the season continues. 

Change 2: Myisha Hines-Allen

Myisha Hines-Allen cleared COVID-19 protocols Saturday after returning from playing overseas and was not able to practice before playing in Sunday’s first matchup with the Fever. Hines-Allen went 0-6 from the floor in that game and was held scoreless, but added three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. 

After Sunday’s game, Charles said, “I think she knows the situation, she’s literally just getting off of a flight, and we need her to be here. She gave us strong minutes, I think she had solid assists out there but I don’t think that’s anything that’s going to trouble her.”

Charles was right: 54 hours and one practice on Monday proved to be all Hines-Allen needed to get back into her groove. On Tuesday night Hines-Allen scored 15 points and added 10 rebounds and three assists in nearly 31 minutes. 

Both Mike Thibault and Eric Thibault were complimentary of what Hines-Allen can add to the team, agreeing that her presence takes some of the pressure off of Charles. 

On Monday after practice, Eric Thibault said, “I think one of the best things that she does that we need some of right now is she really facilitates, especially out of that trail spot.” He also added that she “helps grease the wheels offensively from side to side, one action to the next.” 

After Tuesday’s game, Mike Thibault complimented Hines-Allen’s ball-handling and added that the team has plays that allow her to handle the basketball in transition. 

Moving forward, Hines-Allen will be expected to facilitate and score as a part of the team’s powerful frontcourt as she continues to adjust to being back with her team. 

The Constant: Tina Charles

Charles became just the sixth player to have three 30 point games in a row Tuesday night when she recorded 30 points, six rebounds and two assists. In addition, her streak is the longest 30+ point games streak in Mystics history, and she and Maya Moore are the only two players in league history to have at least three 30+ point games in the first five games of a season. In Sunday’s matchup, she had 31 points, nine rebounds, one assist and one block. 

“Every time I take the floor, I’m just trying to make the statement that I’m here, to not write me off. I’m just trying to win games, I have a goal: I just want to win a championship. I have more years behind me than I do ahead of me, so I take every game personal, and I know my energy, how I come out does wonders for the team,” Charles said after Tuesday’s win. 

Mike Thibault praised Charles for successfully realizing what the team needed and executing that saying, “Sometimes it was a post up, sometimes it was a good screen for a guard. Sometimes it was facing up on the perimeter and you know kind of reading how they’re defending a lot better. We tried to help her, we put her in positions where she could see where the help was coming from the last couple of games. I think she’s done a good job of reading the defense.”

Even Charles needs someone to hold her accountable, and teammate Shavonte Zellous is not afraid to let her know when she is settling for shots, not attacking and not being aggressive. This support fuels Charles and motivates her to come out and get wins for her teammates. 

Despite her success this season, Charles still believes there is room for improvement in her game. She aims to be more efficient, get her teammates involved, and analyze the game film to see where she can continue to improve. 

Charles has been dominant in the team’s first five games of the season and her continued success will be key for Washington as the season continues.

The Mystics return to the court Friday, May 28, when they are scheduled to face off against the Connecticut Sun at 7 p.m. ET.

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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