Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen refused to let the defending champions go residence Sunday, main the Mystics to an 85-78 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Bradenton, Fla., to clinch the ultimate spot within the WNBA playoffs. A loss would have despatched the Dallas Wings to the postseason as a substitute after they received earlier within the day.
The eighth-seeded Mystics (9-13), who’ve received 4 straight, will face the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury (13-9) in a single-elimination showdown Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“The work we’ve finished the previous few weeks when most groups would have stop has paid off,” Mystics Coach Mike Thibault stated. “It’s an incredible, nice testomony to how they’ve hung in. It’s only a fantastic feeling anytime you win. However to do it how we’ve finished to get in, it’s an incredible feeling.”
The Mystics have now reached the playoffs 4 years in a row and in seven of the previous eight seasons. Washington reached the WNBA Finals the previous two seasons, profitable the title in 2019, however merely reaching the postseason in 2020 is an accomplishment. The season was shortened to 22 video games due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with each recreation being performed at IMG Academy. The Mystics performed the complete 12 months with out reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne, former MVP Tina Charles, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders for well being and private causes. Aerial Powers left the bubble with a hamstring damage after she was main the league in scoring. A 3-Zero begin to the season was shortly forgotten when the Mystics dropped their subsequent seven.
However Washington was nonetheless technically within the playoff hunt because the calendar flipped to September, and its 5-1 closing stretch was adequate to increase the season at the least yet another recreation.
“I’m simply so happy with the staff, the best way they fought the previous few weeks and the previous few video games,” ahead Emma Meesseman stated. “We discovered our id, so to have this in consequence it’s simply wonderful that we had been capable of struggle for one thing and have a purpose that we had been capable of attain.”
The Mystics received out to a sluggish begin Sunday and appeared drained initially after profitable Saturday afternoon simply to remain within the hunt. Atlanta’s Chennedy Carter was a one-woman present for a lot of the primary half on her option to ending the sport with 26 factors, and he or she helped the Dream construct an early seven-point lead. That’s when the Mystics discovered some vitality on the defensive finish, and so they closed the primary quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 27-22 lead.
Washington led 44-43 at halftime, and the rating remained shut heading into the fourth quarter. Each time the Dream appeared on the verge of taking up, Atkins stepped up and saved the Mystics in it. Atlanta lower Washington’s result in 73-71 with underneath 5 minutes remaining, however the duo of Hines-Allen and Atkins powered a 12-5 run that put the sport away.
“I wished to win the sport, and I knew usually when the starters come out aggressive we feed off of one another,” Atkins stated. “It was necessary that we gave one another that vitality to feed off of.”
Atkins had a team-high 26 factors for the Mystics, and Hines-Allen completed with 16 factors and 10 rebounds. Meesseman added 14 factors and 7 assists, and Kiara Leslie matched a profession excessive with 11 factors.
Betnijah Laney completed with 27 factors to steer the Dream after Carter fouled out.
The Mystics misplaced back-to-back video games in opposition to the Mercury in late August, falling, 88-87, on Aug. 23 and, 94-72, on Aug. 28. Phoenix is with out star large Brittney Griner however nonetheless has a stacked roster that includes Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley. The Mercury received seven of eight earlier than dropping its common season finale Friday in opposition to the Seattle Storm.
“That’s why we got here right here, to make the playoffs and to get it finished,” Hines-Allen stated. “It’s sort of like a weight off your shoulders, however we’re nonetheless not finished. We’re nonetheless going to exit and compete and attempt to play our hardest in opposition to Phoenix and hopefully get an upset there.”