December 11, 2022 

Five Washington Mystics games to watch in 2023

Eric Thibault’s debut, revenge, a pivotal West Coast trip and more

On Nov. 30, the Washington Mystics announced their 2023 schedule with a video featuring Natasha Cloud, the team’s starting point guard and longest-tenured player. “Next season has already begun,” she says, “and we’re staying ready. … We’re ready to represent from coast to coast.”

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The Mystics will start the season with three games on the East Coast, including two during the league’s opening weekend of May 19-21. They will enter the Central Time Zone in late May and make their first West Coast trip in June. They will play a total of 40 regular-season games — the longest regular season in WNBA history.

Last season, the Mystics also played two games in the first three days of the season, winning both to start 2-0 for the third time in five seasons. They finished the regular season with a 22-14 record and in fifth place, despite having two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne for only 25 of 36 games. After losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Seattle Storm, the Mystics will bring back their top five scorers in Delle Donne (17.2 points per game), guard Ariel Atkins (14.6), Cloud (10.7), forward Myisha Hines-Allen (8.9) and center/forward Shakira Austin (8.7).

Here are five games to circle on the Mystics’ 2023 schedule as they look to build off of last season and contend for a championship.

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May 19 vs. New York: Eric Thibault will debut as the team’s permanent head coach after serving as an assistant to his father, Mike Thibault, in Washington for the last 10 seasons. The younger Thibault served as the team’s interim head coach five times in the past two seasons, and he has felt ready to be a head coach since 2018. But he was waiting for the right opportunity, and he believes he has it with the core the Mystics have assembled. He and the 2023 Mystics will get their first chance to prove themselves — and show what, if anything, will change with Eric in charge — against the Liberty at home.

May 21 at Connecticut: This will be the first of two straight games the Mystics will play against Connecticut, with the second coming at home on May 23. The rivalry between these teams dates back to at least 2019, when Washington beat Connecticut in five games in the WNBA Finals. It might look different this season, as Stephanie White replaces Curt Miller as Connecticut’s head coach and questions remain about what the Sun front office will do with the roster in free agency. But regardless, the battle of first-year head coaches will be well worth watching.

June 2-3 vs. Dallas and Minnesota: Okay, this is technically two games, but with no rest day in between, we’ll bundle them. This will be the Mystics’ lone back-to-back of the season. The good news for the Mystics is that both games will be at home and they will have time both before and after the two-game set to rest. (Their games bookending the back-to-back are on May 26 and June 9.) The bad news is that the Mystics will have a three-game road trip after this two-game set, including two games at Seattle, so the beginning of June could still be taxing physically and mentally.

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July 11 vs. Seattle: Oddly, this will be the Mystics’ last regular-season game against Seattle, just before the All-Star break. The other two games in this series are on the road in June, so this will be the only home matchup with Seattle in the regular season. Though Seattle will look different without retired point guard Sue Bird, the Mystics may have revenge on their minds after Seattle swept them in the playoffs in 2022. Coincidentally, that series also started with two games in Seattle, and the Mystics never got the chance to bring it back to the Entertainment and Sports Arena. They’re guaranteed to get that home game in the 2023 regular season.

Aug. 31 at Las Vegas: This game kicks off a three-game road trip, tied for the team’s longest of the season, all on the West Coast. After traveling to Las Vegas, the Mystics will play at Los Angeles on Sept. 3 and Phoenix on Sept. 5. Over the past four seasons in which the WNBA has played true road games, the Mystics have a 43.4% winning percentage on the West Coast compared to 52.9% on the road elsewhere. The Mystics will have just two more regular-season games after that West Coast swing, so they will need to be locked in to avoid losing ground in the playoff race.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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