May 24, 2024 

Natasha Cloud’s energy sets the tone against her former team

Veteran point guard Natasha Cloud scored her second-straight double-double against her former team, the Washington Mystics

For eight years, Phoenix Mercury guard Natasha Cloud spent her summers as a key contributor for the Washington Mystics. The Mystics drafted Cloud in the second round of the 2015 draft and she became a staple in their lineup. She won multiple All-Defensive accolades and established herself as one of the league’s premier passers, leading the league in assists in 2022. She also won a WNBA title in 2019. All of this happened while with Washington.

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Then, all of a sudden in the offseason, Cloud found herself in new territory – a free agent looking for a new home. She landed with the Mercury and kept her eyes on Thursday’s matchup against her former team.

“Obviously, this meant a lot to me, especially, everyone kind of knows what it is,” Cloud said postgame. “I was let go in the offseason and I found a home here, but to give eight years to an organization and then to be fired on an off day. It’s kind of crazy … December 13 was marked off on the calendar and before I played today’s game I made sure to look back and look back at that day and feel all those feelings that I felt in that moment.”

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Not only were the Mercury able to support their teammate’s “revenge” quest with the 83-80 win, but Cloud herself contributed heavily. She had 14 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals on the nigt, going 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. It was the second game in a row in which Cloud recorded a double-double with points and assists.

Cloud’s energy and anticipation for Thursday’s matchup reached a new level, according to head coach Nate Tibbetts. The consistently energetic Cloud was somehow even more amped up ahead of the matchup against the 0-4 Mystics.

“Just knowing Cloud and her personality, she’s probably had this one circled on her schedule. I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Tibbetts said pregame. “It’s human nature … she brings 10 out of 10 energy every night, and I wouldn’t expect it to be any less. I don’t know if you can get to 11 if you’re her, but it might be close.”

Cloud celebrated every bucket she scored and every momentous defensive play Thursday night with a flex, a yell, or both.

As the Mercury settled and hit their stride, Cloud got even more excited. Her teammates matched her vitality and created the perfect storm for a 15-0 run in the third quarter.

With the Mercury down by one with 8:30 minutes to play in the quarter, and and-one from, Diana Taurasi assisted by Cloud, kept up the energy. Then came a Taurasi three, followed by a Natasha Mack bucket off a pass from Cloud. With four free throws from Cloud, the Mercury’s one-point deficit quickly turned into an 11-point lead.

To cap the run, Cloud came racing up the floor in transition after a block from Liz Dixon. She dribbled left before cutting back to her right and drove into the paint. She then kicked the ball out to a wide-open Sophie Cunningham in the right corner for three points. The pair hyped each other up, high-fiving and skipping back down the court. Kahleah Copper joined Cunningham and Cloud in celebrating as Mytics’ head coach Eric Thibault called a timeout to stop the bleeding. During that stretch, Cloud scored or assisted on 11 of the Mercury’s 15 points. 

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“The game is a circle. If you’re bad on defense, you’re probably going to be bad on offense. And if you’re bad on offense, you’re probably going to be in transition a lot, which is hard to guard anyone,” Taurasi said. “So I think what [the new players] brought on both sides of the ball, that’s really affected our team and in such a great way. With the way Tash can, just like she said, change the game without shooting the basketball. … It’s been contagious to all of us, to our team.”

The Mystics managed to close the gap late in the game, but with three clutch free throws from Cloud, Phoenix managed to escape with its third-straight win for the first time since June 2022.

Thursday’s matchup was the first of three contests between the Mercury and the Mystics. In July, Phoenix will travel to Washington D.C., where Cloud will play her former team on the road for the first time. It’s slated to be one of just three home games for Washington in which they trade in their usual 4,200-seat home at the Entertainment and Sports Arena for the 20,000-seat Capital One Arena. It’s unclear how Cloud will be received by her former team and fanbase. Until then, she’s focused on giving her best to the Mercury.

“Being able to be myself in this organization, being accepted for who I am the fiery player, the dog, the passionate leader, that was welcomed immediately,” Cloud said. “Even in my free agency, I felt sought after. I felt wanted. I felt appreciated for the player that I am. … They truly gave me the keys. They allowed me to lead. And it is a blessing to be here and to be alongside these players that really do accept me.”

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Written by Tia Reid

Tia Reid covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. Her other work has also appeared on, College Gym News, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS and the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. Tia is a senior at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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