On the surface, the Phoenix Mercury’s 85-84 win that eliminated Washington from the WNBA playoffs is a feel-good story. But to the Mystics, it’s a moment of pain to grow from.
The Mercury’s Shey Peddy hit the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer Tuesday night to end the Mystics’ season. Peddy has struggled to find a spot in the WNBA and was just cut by the Mystics last month after spending time with them during their 2019 championship season as both a player and assistant coach.
“It’s one of the toughest losses I have had since I have been in Washington because I feel so bad for these players and how hard they worked,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “I just told them how proud I am of them and that it will pay off in the future.”
For the Mystics, the loss to the Mercury was an abrupt halt to an incredible run.
Realistically, the Mystics were not even supposed to be in the playoffs. After they won their first three games when the WNBA season started in late July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the team was quickly humbled by the absence of key players.
The Mystics had to play the 2020 season without reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne, former league MVP Tina Charles, LaToya Sanders and Natasha Cloud because of health and personal reasons.
Six games into the campaign, second-leading scorer Aerial Powers had to exit Bradenton after suffering a hamstring injury.
At one point, the Mystics had lost 12 of 13 games and did not win a single game in August.
Only one starter, Ariel Atkins, was left playing from last year’s title-winning team, but against the odds, the Mystics somehow stayed together. They had to win five of their final six games to get in the postseason still, and very nearly advanced against the Mercury.
“I guess you just got to kind of put the season in perspective,” said Mystics guard Leilani Mitchell. “A lot of players really grew up this season, and I think we will be better for it next year.”
Myisha Hines-Allen is probably the best example of a player who emerged as someone for the Mystics’ future. In her first two seasons with the team, Hines-Allen only made one start. This season, she took advantage of increased playing time and became the Mystics’ leading scorer and rebounder.
Delle Donne and Charles are still in the prime of their WNBA careers, and with Hines-Allen now in the mix, the championship window is still open for the Mystics.