June 19, 2021
Theresa Plaisance: The last big standing
How Plaisance’s career night propelled the Mystics to victory
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On Jun. 17, Theresa Plaisance was the last big standing for the Washington Mystics.
Myisha Hines-Allen left the game for good during the second quarter with a knee injury.
Erica McCall hurt her knee during shootaround.
Tina Charles was attending the Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of her film “Game Changer.”
None of this mattered as Plaisance put together the best game of her career to help lead the Mystics to a 96-93 win over the Atlanta Dream on Jun. 17.
“I don’t know how we got from start to finish. I know it was gritty. At times it was ugly. But we did it. We kept our composure when they went through their runs. We fought back with patience, trust and communication. And we knocked down big shots, and everybody played a part,” Plaisance said.
She added, “Am I surprised that tonight happened? No, I’m not surprised. Am I surprised with all the variables that happened tonight? Absolutely. But the grit, the heart, the determination has always been within the Mystics, and this is just something that brought it out of us.”
Even with the weight of the post on her shoulders, Plaisance was still able to be effective from behind the arc and on the defensive end.
Plaisance’s performance was not the product of a perfect warm-up or pristine game-day routine. In fact, she described her warm-up as “terrible.”
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have two post players left and I’m shooting like this?’ I was like, ‘Come on, T, you got to do something in the game,’” she said.
And do something she did.
Despite playing a more limited role in recent WNBA seasons, Plaisance seamlessly slid into the primary scoring role, knocking down 10 of her 16 shots, including a career-high five 3-pointers, on the way to a career-high 25 points. She also added six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Mystics head coach Mike Thibault has consistently praised Plaisance for her work ethic and effort, but even he could not have predicted her performance tonight.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew that. I had hoped that she could be a consistent 3-point shooter and, depending on her minutes, that she would fill a void as, for the way we play, a post player who could set screens and pop and knock down threes. We just tell every player your turn comes. I mean, sooner or later everybody gets a turn, and tonight was hers,” he said.
Plaisance entered the game averaging 11.7 minutes per game this season and has not averaged more than 15 minutes per game since 2017, when she was with the Dallas Wings.
After Hines-Allen’s injury, Plaisance told herself, “Just keep those legs moving. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to fatigue. We’re just going to get through it. And Tash [Natasha Cloud] gave us constant reminders periodically throughout the game, telling us to take a deep breath in through our nose and out through our mouth.”
Plaisance finished the game with a career-high 35 minutes, surpassing her previous career high of 33, which she reached on Aug. 19, 2017, and Sept. 11, 2015.
Even after a night full of career highs, she remained humble, continuing to credit her teammates and take the spotlight off herself, as she does whenever she is asked about her individual performance. Even when she was the last big remaining for the Mystics, she was determined to make sure she was still helping the team. The first thing that went through her mind was that she needed to set as many screens as possible in order to create mismatches and spacing.
Unlike Plaisance, her teammates could not stop praising her individual accomplishments.
Cloud, who had to fill in at the five when Plaisance got into foul trouble, exclaimed, “Dabai, Dabai, that’s what they call her in China. Dabai, ‘Big White’” as soon as she heard Plaisance’s name mentioned in a postgame question.
The chant continued when Cloud served as a one-woman hype party for Plaisance as she entered the parking garage after the game.
After the full question about Plaisance’s performance was asked, Cloud provided a more serious answer demonstrating how proud she was of her, especially after all Plaisance has been through.
“A year ago, Theresa literally didn’t know if she was going to walk again, and to see her come out, to see her have this game and to see her confidence, it’s amazing. This culture that we have here, we’re a family. And so to see your family member really just own who she is and come back to who she’s always been as a player, it was really, really—it was a dope night to see,” Cloud said.
“And yes, she’s so humble, she’s not going to brag about it, but Theresa was Dabai tonight. She was Big White tonight,” Cloud added.
Ariel Atkins was a more reserved hype woman, hoping that this game instills confidence in Plaisance.
“She should understand that she needs to be confident in what she can do, she’s not here by accident, and she’s earned the right to be here. And she’s worked her tail off to get back to playing shape and to be able to do what she can do for us. So as much as it feels good for us, I want it to feel good for her. I want her to know that she can do it. She’s capable, more than capable,” Atkins said.
Atkins later added, “She had a rough year last year in the bubble, but I just want her to know—like, she understands that she’s not here by accident, for one, and for two, she’s in an environment where she can thrive. She’s in an environment where she can be her best self and we all accept that and we believe in what she can do. I mean, you got the jersey on; you might as well do what you can do.”
The secret to Plaisance’s career game was simple: putting in the work in the gym and staying ready.
Plaisance has struggled with back injuries over the last two seasons, undergoing two surgeries and changing her rehabbing style this past offseason.
Thibault credited her success to her work ethic, saying, “She’s really put in the hours to get in the gym. Here’s a player who has had back surgery, had a second one … But then this offseason she really worked hard on her body, but she trimmed it and lost a lot of weight and it’s taken her a while to get kind of used to her new body. And it’s a different feel, and her shot didn’t feel right to her. [It] was streaky … but she’s just stuck with it and I give her a lot of credit for when she was struggling to not lose faith.”
After Washington’s Jun. 10 win against the Sparks, Plaisance said she felt “on top of the world” after seeing a few of her shots go down, and she believes that making a few shots in the past few games gave her confidence to keep shooting.
“It feels really good to see your shot go in the rim as a shooter as something that you really hang your hat on, to see it go down, even though some of my misses prior to these games where I’m shooting a better percentage, my misses felt really good, but to see that ball go in and to stay in the rhythm that I’ve been working so hard on,” she said on Thursday.
Plaisance added, “I’ve been staying after practice and working with Sefu [Bernard, the Mystics’ director of player development] on just staying in rhythm, staying patient, not getting myself worked up when the shot isn’t falling. Working on the process and not looking at the product is something that was really important to me.”
Plaisance credits her coaching staff and teammates for building her confidence and supporting her throughout her long journey back from her back injuries.
“Coming back from injury is not an easy road and finding your confidence, through pain and through my new body and all these things, where I’m just trying to figure it out. What has been consistent is people just pouring confidence into me,” she said.
Plaisance was finally able to show the rest of the league what her teammates had suspected for a long time: She is capable of being a primary scoring threat when called upon, something that may be needed with McCall and Hines-Allen both out for the team’s next matchup against the Indiana Fever on Jun. 19.
She has also talked throughout the season about wanting to play her role, and when that day comes that the Mystics just need her to knock down a couple of threes and set screens, Plaisance will be ready for that, too, with equal enthusiasm to the night in which she was the last big standing.
Atkins summarized Plaisance’s night in just seven words: “Theresa Plaisance can shoot the freaking basketball.”