WASHINGTON — Without three of their five regular starters, the Washington Mystics found their task even harder on Friday evening when the two holdovers in the starting rotation each had one of her worst shooting games of the season. All of that is what made tonight’s victory all the more satisfying, and hopefully for the Mystics, the encouraging play from their reserves will bode well for the stretch run toward the playoffs if and when the reinforcements finally arrive.
Tianna Hawkins’s fast-break layup after a Natasha Cloud steal with under a minute remaining helped the Mystics seal a 79-77 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks inside the Entertainment & Sports Arena in southeast D.C. on Friday night. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Washington, who had come into the game losing five of their last six and posted a 3-7 record in the month of July, and pushed the Mystics back to .500 at 13-13.
Cloud and Briitany Sykes have had to shoulder the load for the Mystics as Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins, Shakira Austin and Kristi Toliver all remain absent due to injury, but the two of them combined to go 6-for-24 from the field against the Sparks, missing all seven of their three-point attempts to boot. Tonight’s unsung heroes included Hawkins, who scored 17 points for a second consecutive game, and forward Queen Egbo, who registered 15 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.
Despite the poor shooting, Cloud and Sykes combined for 14 of Washington’s 22 assists and six of the Mystics’ 10 steals in the contest.
Azura Stevens had 19 points for Los Angeles while Nneka Ogwumike had 18, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Sparks’ slide, as they’ve now lost three straight and 11 of their last 13 games after a 7-7 start to the campaign.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Clifford Ray Williams. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 20 pictures in total.