What Sydney Wiese’s success and injury means for the Washington Mystics

Who will step up if she has to miss several games?

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In her second start of the season, Washington Mystics guard Sydney Wiese made a splash, knocking down her first four 3-pointers in the team’s 86-81 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Friday.

She was a bright spot in the Mystics’ 3-point shooting, finishing the game 4-6 while the rest of the team went 5-24 from beyond the arc.

After the team’s May 18 loss to the Phoenix Mercury, guard Natasha Cloud complimented Wiese’s ability to learn and what she was able to bring to the team, saying, “She came in and she came ready. She picked up our plays, our game schemes, our game plans immediately. So when you have a player like that come in, that's an immediate help for us and that's what we need right now with waiting for players like Myisha [Hines-Allen] to come back, Elena [Delle Donne] to come back. Sydney's been great. She's great for our locker room. She's a phenomenal person and she's grown since she's been in this league.”

The Sun struggled to defend Wiese, often giving her too much time and space to set up and take her shot—something that led to her season-high 12 points in 24 minutes.

While her teammates were also able to get open looks from deep, Wiese was able to knock them down in a way that her teammates were not able to do. Though she started the season with six made threes in five games, this game proved that Wiese can be a consistent 3-point threat for the Mystics and provide spacing, something that proved to be important for Washington in this game.

Teammate Tina Charles complimented Wiese’s style of play and how quickly she has been able to adjust to the Mystics, saying, “She stretches the floor, she's a great shooter, she's a good playmaker, she's smart, has high basketball IQ, especially with her just being thrown into the lineup just getting traded from LA.”

With three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, Wiese appeared to step and land incorrectly and then went to the ground and clutched her right ankle. She was helped off the court and the team later reported she sprained her ankle.

After Wiese was helped off the court, the Mystics were able to knock down a few more open threes, but it was not enough to secure the victory.

The Mystics sounded optimistic about her injury after the game, and the team has an extended break with its next game coming against the Las Vegas Aces on Jun. 5. Though the severity of Wiese’s injury is unknown, head coach Mike Thibault did not seem overly concerned, noting that the break provides her with additional recovery time.

If Wiese is going to miss an extended period of time, Ariel Atkins will need to remain consistent from behind the arc. In the team’s first five games, she went 15-32 from behind the arc, good for 46.9 percent. Shavonte Zellous is the only player with a higher 3-point percentage, 66.7 percent, but she is just 2-3 on the season. Heading into Friday’s game, Tina Charles was second on the team in made threes with nine, shooting 33.3 percent from behind the arc.

Personnel-wise, both younger guards and veterans may get more playing time.

“If she's not able to play, Kiara [Leslie] and Stella [Johnson], two of our younger players, will be able to figure out how to get in the mix,” said Atkins. “And then of course we have Shavonte Zellous, who is a vet in her own right, and she knows how to get it done. [She] actually just got Import of the Year out in Turkey [Eurobasket.com All-Turkish KBSL Import Player of the Year], so she knows what she's doing. So we have a lot of people that are able to fill in their role. It's just a matter of, again, us getting better, us gelling as a team.”

Zellous, who played just five minutes against the Sun, entered the game averaging 14.6 minutes per game. She has scored just 22 points in the team’s first six games but has proven she can be a scorer throughout her 12-year WNBA career.

After Zellous’ 11-point game against the New York Liberty on May 21 in which she was 4-5 from the floor, associate head coach Eric Thibault said, “In last night's game, her experience really showed and her ability to kind of lock into scouting reports. She made shots last night, too, which is really helpful.”

Thibault also added that, for second-year players Leslie and Johnson, this is their first full year of development due to the circumstances of the bubble season last year.

He said, “They just got to stick with it and trust that there's a big picture for them and for us, and they'll keep getting better to get their opportunities.” If Wiese does need to miss several games, this could be an opportunity for Leslie and Johnson to shine.

The Mystics plan to take Saturday and Sunday off before returning to practice on Monday, and Mike Thibault indicated that it will take several days for the team to determine the severity of Wiese’s injury and how long she may miss. While the Mystics are a better team with her on the court, the team has several players who will be able to help fill in in her absence.