Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen refused to let the protecting champions pass house Sunday, main the Mystics to an 85-78 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Bradenton, Fla., to clinch the overall spot within the WNBA playoffs. A loss would have despatched the Dallas Wings to the postseason as a substitute once they gained previous within the day.
The eighth-seeded Mystics (Nine-13), who’ve gained 4 directly, will face the No. Five seed Phoenix Mercury (13-Nine) in a single-elimination showdown Tuesday at Nine p.m.
“The paintings we’ve carried out the previous few weeks when maximum groups would have surrender has paid off,” Mystics Trainer Mike Thibault mentioned. “It’s an excellent, nice testomony to how they’ve hung in. It’s only a superb feeling anytime you win. However to do it how we’ve carried out to get in, it’s an excellent feeling.”
The Mystics have now reached the playoffs 4 years in a row and in seven of the previous 8 seasons. Washington reached the WNBA Finals the previous two seasons, profitable the name in 2019, however merely attaining the postseason in 2020 is an accomplishment. The season was once shortened to 22 video games on account of the unconventional coronavirus pandemic, with each sport being performed at IMG Academy. The Mystics performed all of the yr 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 once main the league in scoring. A three-Zero begin to the season was once briefly forgotten when the Mystics dropped their subsequent seven.
However Washington was once nonetheless technically within the playoff hunt because the calendar flipped to September, and its Five-1 final stretch was once excellent sufficient to increase the season no less than yet one more sport.
“I’m simply so happy with the staff, the way in which they fought the previous few weeks and the previous few video games,” ahead Emma Meesseman mentioned. “We discovered our id, so that you can have this consequently it’s simply wonderful that we had been ready to combat for one thing and feature a purpose that we had been ready to succeed in.”
The Mystics were given out to a sluggish get started Sunday and appeared drained first of all after profitable Saturday afternoon simply to stick within the hunt. Atlanta’s Chennedy Carter was once a one-woman display for far of the primary part on her option to completing the sport with 26 issues, and he or she helped the Dream construct an early seven-point lead. That’s when the Mystics discovered some power at the defensive finish, they usually closed the primary quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 27-22 lead.
Washington led 44-43 at halftime, and the ranking remained shut heading into the fourth quarter. Each time the Dream appeared at the verge of taking up, Atkins stepped up and saved the Mystics in it. Atlanta reduce Washington’s result in 73-71 with beneath 5 mins ultimate, however the duo of Hines-Allen and Atkins powered a 12-Five run that put the sport away.
“I sought after to win the sport, and I knew in most cases when the starters pop out competitive we feed off of one another,” Atkins mentioned. “It was once essential that we gave every different that power to feed off of.”
Atkins had a team-high 26 issues for the Mystics, and Hines-Allen completed with 16 issues and 10 rebounds. Meesseman added 14 issues and 7 assists, and Kiara Leslie matched a profession excessive with 11 issues.
Betnijah Laney completed with 27 issues to steer the Dream after Carter fouled out.
The Mystics misplaced back-to-back video games in opposition to the Mercury in overdue August, falling, 88-87, on Aug. 23 and, 94-72, on Aug. 28. Phoenix is with out big name giant Brittney Griner however nonetheless has a stacked roster that includes Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley. The Mercury gained seven of 8 sooner than losing its common season finale Friday in opposition to the Seattle Hurricane.
“That’s why we got here right here, to make the playoffs and to get it carried out,” Hines-Allen mentioned. “It’s roughly like a weight off your shoulders, however we’re nonetheless now not carried out. We’re nonetheless going to head out and compete and check out to play our toughest in opposition to Phoenix and with a bit of luck get an disappointed there.”