Myisha Hines-Allen is a walking double-double—and much more—for the Washington Mystics
Hines-Allen’s 11 points, 10 rebounds on Friday are just the tip of the iceberg
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That night’s game, an 86-81 loss to the Connecticut Sun, was hardly a vintage shooting performance for Hines-Allen, as she shot just 3-for-14 and missed all four of her 3-point attempts. But she still met Mitchell’s expectation for the second straight game with 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 33 minutes.
In both teams’ postgame media availabilities, there seemed to be a sense that this performance was just the tip of the iceberg for Hines-Allen, who missed the first three games of the season while playing overseas and only joined the Mystics a week ago. She has gotten off to a slow start offensively, shooting just 28.6% from the field and 10.0% from 3-point range through three games. On Friday, she made three of seven attempts inside five feet and missed all seven of her shots from further away.
“It wasn't an efficient night,” Hines-Allen said. “[I’ll] just continue to shoot my shots because those are shots that I make, so it wasn't like I was doing anything out of the ordinary. So it's just, next one, next one.”
Hines-Allen was a Second-Team All-WNBA performer and the runner-up for Most Improved Player in 2020, so some observers may look at her numbers this season and conclude that she is regressing. But there are multiple reasons to believe that this is merely a rut and Hines-Allen will break out of it sooner rather than later. She is shooting 83.3% from the free throw line this season, which suggests that her form is still true. In 22-regular season games last season—a much larger sample size than this season—she shot 51.0% from the field and 42.6% from 3-point range.
Hines-Allen also had a nearly identical stat line playing in France this offseason as she did in the WNBA in 2020, averaging 16.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals for Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration (BLMA). She told the media on Thursday that she had improved her 3-point shot, and the numbers support that. She made 40.9% of her 3-pointers for BLMA on 1.9 attempts per game, which was a similar percentage to her 2020 WNBA season despite an over 50% increase in volume.
As head coach Mike Thibault said after Friday’s game, “Some nights the shots don't go in, but she did all the other stuff.”
Rebounding topped the ways in which Hines-Allen impacted the game. Six of her 10 rebounds came on the offensive end—matching the number of offensive rebounds that the entire Sun team had. Thibault called her effort on the glass “terrific,” and it helped the Mystics to a 15-8 advantage in second-chance points.
Hines-Allen’s rebounding was even more impressive considering two things: Entering Friday’s game, the Sun led the league in rebounds per game and rebounding rate, and at 6’1, Hines-Allen gave up as much as five inches against the Sun frontcourt, which is one of the tallest in the WNBA. She found success by being persistent, often grabbing rebounds that the Sun had tipped but not secured.
“We've had a really good start to the season rebounding, but she really challenged us,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said of Hines-Allen. 6’6 forward Jonquel Jones added that Hines-Allen’s success forces the Sun to change their approach on the glass going forward: “Even though she might not be as tall as us, she’s jumping and getting up there and getting rebounds … It showed that we have to get back to the basics in terms of rebounding and putting a body on someone.”
Hines-Allen also had three assists for the third straight game and used her physicality on defense to make up for her size disadvantage. “She is really, really strong, and she gave us trouble [on] defense,” Miller admitted. Or, as former Sun and current Mystics forward Theresa Plaisance put it before Friday’s game:
“She's just like a big muscle out there, getting to the rim, rebounding, blocking shots, hitting threes. She can do it all.”
The bottom line is that, whenever she’s in the lineup, Hines-Allen gives the Mystics options on both ends of the court that no one else can provide. This was evident in the first possession of the third quarter, when she received an inbounds pass, broke the Sun’s full-court pressure and initiated the offense—and then got two offensive rebounds on that same possession.
“One of the best things that she does that we need some of right now is she really facilitates,” Mystics associate head coach Eric Thibault said earlier this week. “… [She can] get it off the glass, push it herself and start initiating offense, even take some pressure off the guards where … they're not having to get us into offense every set. So one of my favorite things is just greasing the wheels: she helps grease the wheels offensively from side to side, one action to the next.”
Hines-Allen is so good at that, in fact, that the Mystics have designed plays to get her the ball in transition and put pressure on defenses. Other forwards around the league have similar versatility, but Hines-Allen’s strength adds another layer of difficulty to defending it.
“I’m used to it—like, our last game against Seattle, I had to deal with [2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart] bringing the ball up full court,” Jones said. “But Myisha, she's just so strong. So if you give her a head of steam, she’s going to hit you and bury you underneath the rim and finish it.”
Hines-Allen has changed multiple games for the Mystics this season with her playmaking and rebounding, even though she hasn’t practiced with the team in their home arena yet due to her late arrival. As Hines-Allen settles in and acclimates to playing with five new teammates, her playmaking will likely continue to improve along with her shooting. That would give the Mystics a scary frontcourt tandem with Hines-Allen and center Tina Charles, who leads the WNBA in scoring (26.7 points per game) and ranks ninth in rebounding (8.3 per game) through Friday’s games.
“I think it's good,” Hines-Allen said of her chemistry with Charles. “I'm definitely playing off her. I'm still learning whether she wants me to cut right away or space … She was telling me today, when my [defender] was going down to double-team her, when to cut and where to cut because I thought maybe you want me to space out and you go to work. She was like, ‘No, you should go here because then your girl's coming here.’”
Hines-Allen is also picking up on ways that Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP, handles defensive pressure. Hines-Allen was the focal point of opposing defenses in 2020, and she said after Friday’s game that she sometimes waited too long last year to make her move or didn’t recognize what the defenders were doing.
“With Tina, I notice how she'll dribble out and then square up and see where the opening is or attack again. So just seeing how she plays in that aspect will definitely help me,” Hines-Allen said.
“I think it's going to be fun playing with her this season,” Hines-Allen added. “Like, y'all can see she's unstoppable … so hopefully I get some assists in there, too, and then that just helps my game grow even more.”
Hines-Allen’s improved 3-point shooting is a perfect fit alongside Charles (who can also play both inside and out) and on a team that leads the league with 29 3-point attempts per game. Her experience in France will also pay off in ways that don’t directly appear in the box score. She said she is in possibly the best shape of her life and got used to playing three different positions at a moment’s notice—which she might also do for the Mystics when forward Elena Delle Donne returns from a back injury. And she weathered a slow start in France as BLMA dealt with COVID-19 cases and injuries, so she will make sure the Mystics keep their heads up after a 2-4 start.
According to her teammates, Hines-Allen is also a perfect fit off the court—and an early favorite to win the Mario Kart tournament that the players are planning. “Myisha’s just a big bundle of fun energy, and she brings the fun up a whole ‘nother notch,” Plaisance said. “Like, we bring the fun, and then when Myisha showed up, when you didn't think it could get any more fun, here comes Myisha bringing some more fun.”
Perhaps the only time Hines-Allen hasn’t had fun, in fact, was when she was completing her WNBA-mandated quarantine after returning from France. Throughout her absence from the team, she watched video of practices and games that the team uploaded to Hudl, but it was tough for her not to be physically with her teammates or contribute in the first three games.
“That was the worst part, being in DC and knowing you can't see your teammates,” she said on Thursday. “… I had to do what I had to do over in France. But I'm really, really happy to be back here.”
It’s safe to say that the Mystics are happy to have her back, too—especially because they know that the two double-doubles to date are closer to a floor than a ceiling for their bundle of fun.