2022 WNBA Playoffs: Waiting four years for rematch, Washington Mystics swept by Storm again

Waiting four years for rematch, Mystics swept by Storm again originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The more things change, the more they say the same.

Four years ago, the Washington Mystics were swept by the Seattle Storm in the 2018 WNBA Finals. Key figures got injured, and both teams went through a rough patch or two in the time since, but the long-awaited rematch finally came together for the 2022 WNBA Playoffs.

The result, though, was the same. The Mystics were swept – this time 2-0 as opposed to 3-0 – after falling 97-84 in Game 2.

It was the second time Washington allowed any opponent to reach the 95-point mark all season long. In a season where there was such a huge emphasis on the efforts on the defensive side of the ball – compared the offensive focus in 2018 and 2019 – the final game is where the opposing offense had a field day.

“They made a lot of tough shots with a hand in their face and that’s to their credit,” head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “I didn’t think our defense was that bad for part of it, but every time I looked around, they’re knocking down some big shots. It’s why they have a chance to win a championship. Their offense is really good and they had a good game plan for us. We honed in but it just wasn’t good enough.”

Seattle finished the game with a 55.6% field goal percentage and an astounding 52.2% mark from behind the arc. Of their 35 made baskets, 26 of them were assisted.

Yes, giving up nearly triple digits and 50+ shooting numbers is never good, but there was no confidence the offense could keep pace with the Storm. Seattle jumped to an 11-point lead in the first quarter and things simply couldn’t come together for the Mystics.

Elena Delle Donne struggled by her standards. Ariel Atkins got into early foul trouble which limited her first-half production. Shakira Austin committed a team-high three turnovers from the center position.

Aside from a quick second-quarter burst when three different players drilled a 3-pointer for a 9-0 run, the Mystics felt outmatched. That’s the exact narrative that was surrounding the team back in their 2018 Finals loss.

Many within the organization felt that Finals loss molded the team to put things together for the eventual championship run a year later. Still, Thibault said that matchup was on his mind prior to this series; Seattle prevented him from getting another ring.

And while Thibault was one who was looking for revenge, his players did not share the same sentiment.

“I’m tired of talking about past years. I’m tired of 2018, I’m tired of 2019,” Natasha Cloud said. “Those years don’t matter. It’s 2022 and we just got knocked out in the first round of playoffs. So honestly, respectfully, I don’t give a [expletive] about any year before this.”

Cloud led the team with 21 points, drilling five 3-pointers as the Storm dared her to shoot, seeing the fruits of her labor this year pay off. She performed with Delle Donne unable to get comfortable with Seattle’s defensive look.

The two-time MVP’s 35.7% field goal percentage (5-for-14 FG) was her fifth-lowest mark of the season. She posted 12 points in the game, just four coming in the second half.

A stark contrast from how she carried the team in Game 1.

“I think that as a collective everyone did really well guarding Elena,” Breanna Stewart said, who was just shy of a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. “She’s tough. And she really gets to her spots, can elevate over people and knock down shots, and we just want to make it hard for her.”

“I thought what we did from Game 1 to Game 2, just changing it up, giving her different looks,” Sue Bird described on how they contained Delle Donne. “Game 1 we jammed her a lot. Everywhere. Went under pick and rolls and jammed her a lot as to not disconnect, not have our post player disconnect from her and then when she got it on the block, double teamed her. Today, we switched a lot.”

Washington had a prime opportunity to steal Game 1 of the series. Late-game mistakes cost them the win.

Perhaps it was just a case of a bad matchup for the Mystics. Both teams are extremely well-balanced and play similar schemes.

Had it been any other opponent, you could make the argument Washington doesn’t lose in the first round. There were certainly their fair share of games that the Mystic unnecessarily coughed up this year, costing them positioning.

But at the end of the day, Seattle was better.

“[It] like a little bit like 2018, that they were just a little bit better, all the way around. We couldn’t match the same production that they had,” Thibault said.

The loss ends Washington season well earlier than what was intended. Since winning it all in 2019, the team has yet to win a playoff game, let alone a series.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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