Mystics bench overcomes slow start to put away Liberty, 67-54

Ivory Latta, along with Elena Delle Donne, put up 15 points in Washington's win over New York Thursday. Photo by Scott Cunninngham/NBAE via Getty Images.
Ivory Latta, along with Elena Delle Donne, put up 15 points in Washington’s win over New York Thursday. Photo by Scott Cunninngham/NBAE via Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. – The Washington Mystics bench made a big showing Thursday to help the team take down their Eastern Conference rival New York Liberty, 67-54.

Ivory Latta and Elena Delle Donne each tallied 15 points for Washington, while Tianna Hawkins added 13. The team has now won three straight.

The game started off painfully slow for the Mystics, as they only scored nine points in the first quarter. Cue the entrance of Latta, Hawkins and Natasha Cloud, who ignited a comeback when they came off the bench.

“We set basketball back about 20 years offensively,” coach Mike Thibault joked. His team shot an excruciating 30.9 percent from the field for the game, missing breakaway layups and wide open jump shots.

“Ivory and Tianna and Natasha really energized us, on both ends of the floor. I thought Natasha was all over the place defensively helping people and getting her hands on the ball, and Ivory and Tianna were aggressive offensively.”

Cloud said it was a collective effort.

“It’s a team sport so we’re in it together,” Cloud said. “We all take our roles coming off the bench really seriously. I think you see a change of tempo with us that helps get us going a little bit and us knowing our roles and being focused every game we come in is huge for us. We’re just having some fun with it.”

One thing that was on point for Washington all night was their defense, which was key in making the match up a low-scoring affair. They forced 19 turnovers – 11 of which came from steals.

A concern going into the game was how the hosts would contain Liberty center Tina Charles inside. The Mystics handled the challenge well, as a joint effort by Delle Donne, Hawkins and Thomas limited her to eight points on the night.

“We were just trying to make her think and trying to make her get rid of the ball,” Delle Donne said. “It was a huge team effort defensively, and I knew I had my teammates so that’s what gave me confidence.”

Thibault was pleased with how well his bigs executed the game plan.

“We mixed up how we played her,” he said. “Sometimes we played her straight up, sometimes we double-teamed her. When you play against Tina, you can’t give her the same look all the time or she gets into a comfort zone. We just tried to keep her guessing a little bit.”

New York was led by Shavonte Zellous with 17 points, and Epiphanny Prince with 12.

Coach Bill Laimbeer said his team was stagnant, even when Washington was slow.

“Nobody played well offensively for our basketball team,” he said. “We have to do a better job of moving the ball and getting more player movement around the court. They were in (Charles’) space, sometimes they doubled her, sometimes they didn’t. But others should step up and we have to find a way to get other people involved. Hopefully this is a one-out, and we’ll see what the next game holds.”

The Mystics, now 10-5, go on the road to face the WNBA’s second-ranked Los Angeles Sparks Sunday. Los Angeles is riding a six-game winning streak going into their Friday match up with the Atlanta Dream.