Mystics win again
MYSTICS 67, LIBERTY 62
Kara Lawson helps Washington move to 2-0 with big shots down the stretch.
During a light-hearted moment last week following practice, Washington Mystics guard Kara Lawson was reflecting on her distinguished WNBA career when she mentioned how old her body feels given 12 years of jostling, hard landings and the general grind of competing against the best players in the world.
On Saturday night in the Mystics’ home opener, the Northern Virginia native hardly looked the part of a 34-year-old veteran when it mattered most, scoring seven of Washington’s final nine points, including an acrobatic go-ahead jumper with 42 seconds left in a 67-62 victory over the New York Liberty.
The triumph on the second night of a back-to-back to open the season pushed the Mystics to 2-0 for the first time since 2010. That season, Washington finished 22-12 for its best record in franchise history. At that time, Lawson was playing for the Connecticut Sun and then-coach Mike Thibault, who has led the Mystics to consecutive playoff berths in his first two seasons in the nation’s capital.
“We weren’t shooting well all night,” Lawson said. “I had some really quality looks and hadn’t made them, so you get a little bit frustrated because you feel like you’re getting open shots, and you’re job is to knock them down. Late, I just felt like I could get a little closer, get into the paint a little bit, and made a couple jump shots.”
Lawson (eight points, five rebounds, four assists) had missed her first four field goal attempts before sinking her final two, and forward Emma Meesseman added a pair of foul shots with 25 seconds to play to all but seal the win in front of an announced 7,400 at Verizon Center. Meesseman scored six of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
For a second night in a row, Washington clamped down defensively to close out an opponent. The Mystics yielded one field goal to New York over the final six minutes, repeating a similar effort in Friday’s season opener at Connecticut that preserved a 73-68 win at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The shorthanded Mystics were able to survive this time despite shooting 37 percent, including 4 for 18 (22 percent) from threepoint range, and getting outrebounded 41-33. Washington has been without starting center Kia Vaughn (hip flexor) and starting guard Bria Hartley (stress fracture in right foot) this season, although both might be back in the lineup Friday night against the Atlanta Dream.
“I guess that’s our identity for the moment,” Thibault said of another defensive gem down the stretch. “We’ve got to start making some threes at some point. I thought maybe we had a little tired legs from the three-point line tonight from last night. You see on a back-to-back that a defensive effort is going to win.”
The Liberty moved in front early in the third quarter courtesy of an 8-2 run that included six consecutive points from guard Tanisha Wright. The 10-year veteran’s layup provided New York with a 41-37 lead, matching the largest of the game to that point. The Mystics countered with seven of the next nine points to reclaim the lead on 1 of 2 foul shots from Tayler Hill.
Meesseman sank a jumper to trigger seven points in a row for the Mystics in the closing stages of the third quarter. Rookie guard Natasha Cloud made 1 of 2 from the free throw line and assisted on rookie forward Kayla Thornton’s field goal before Meesseman’s two free throws with 53 seconds to go gave Washington a 51-45 advantage.
New York scored the next nine consecutive points bridging the third and fourth quarters until Mystics all-star point guard Ivory Latta (10 points) stopped the surge with a difficult three-pointer to tie the score at 54 with 6 minutes 7 seconds to play, setting up the back-and-forth final minutes.
Center Tina Charles led the Liberty with a game-high 18 points and added eight rebounds, and reserve center Carolyn Swords chipped in 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Wright (10 points) was the only other New York player to reach double figures.
“We played great defense tonight,” said Mystics second-year center Stefanie Dolson, who established career highs Friday with 18 points and 12 rebounds. “We didn’t have a great shooting night tonight, so we’re going to keep working on that obviously and just working on our chemistry, making sure that we read each other, the whole team, and just play together.”
TheMystics’ Kara Lawson, shooting here against the Liberty’s Sugar Rodgers, got hot down the stretch.