Mystics lose to Seattle Storm and fall behind in WNBA rankings

Suspension

A game at stake, an elimination match on the line, and a head-to-head tie-breaker about to be decided, the Washington Mystics put the ball into the hands of the two leaders. They came empty both times.

With the chance of climbing to fourth in the WNBA standings, which would put them in a position to host a playoff series, the Mystics fell, 82-77, to Seattle Storm. Both teams have six games left, and now Storm (19-11) is not only leading by one game, but holds the tiebreak between the two teams.

The teams will play each other again on Sunday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, with the Mystics (18-12) getting a chance to tie. With Saturday’s win, Storm snatched a place in the playoff. The Mystics settled a playoff later Saturday when Atlanta lost to Dallas.

“It’s like the best games,” Mystics striker Elena Delle Donne said. “Obviously, when you lose, it’s not fun. But it’s just fun games and an interlude atmosphere. Our crowd was in it. These are the games we play for and live for.

“Unfortunately, the result was not what we would like to see, but these are great prep matches.”

Washington rebounded from a 15-point deficit in the last quarter to fall by one by 21 seconds. Dele Donne, a two-time MVP, drove left against Ezi Magbegor and missed the seven-foot runner. The mystics were looking for a foul call that never came. Breanna Stewart hit a pair of free throws to lift Seattle 80-77 with 11.8 seconds remaining, and Washington had a chance to tie the match to three. Natasha Cloud ended up with 28 feet wide open.

Dele Donne was the most dominant player on the ground and finished the game with 22 points with a 50 percent shot, five rebounds and three blocks. Ariel Atkins added 13 points on her 26th birthday, and Shakira Austin finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, her third rookie double. Cloud also had a double with 10 points and 11 assists.

Myisha Hines-Allen scored eight points to break 1,000 in her career.

Stewart (18 points), Joel Lloyd (17) and Tina Charles (16 points, nine rebounds) lifted the heavy loads for Storm.

“We can’t let a single domino bug affect the rest of the next play and the various plays after that,” said Chaturi Walker Kimbrough, the Washington goalkeeper. “I think that was one of our biggest things. We let one play affect the next.”

Here’s what else you need to know about the Sufis’ loss:

Storm used 20-5 runs spanning the third and fourth quarters to build up its 15-point cushion and stay put the rest of the way. Mystics only made one field goal during that round. Six of Washington’s 14 shifts came during that 7:35 stretch.

“We need to do some practice that we missed; we need to not flip it,” coach Mike Tybolt said. There is a lot of physique out there, and we have to play through it. I hope we keep in mind that you should value every acquisition. In a game like this, you can’t have it [14] Turns into a playoff. … it comes down to the little things.

“Go back to the horse, and let’s go. I can’t sit here and cry for it. It does us no good.”

Thibault and his assistant Eric Thibault received technical errors at the same time during the extension.

Saturday was the opening in four consecutive games as the Mystics face three of the top four teams in the standings. They host the Las Vegas Ice (21-8) on Tuesday and travel to meet Chicago Sky (22-7) on Friday. This gives Mystics the opportunity to rise in the rankings. Then they host the Los Angeles Sparks (12-16), who sit eighth, a week later on Sunday.

Charles has made her third appearance on the main Mystics circuit since leaving the team at free agency during the holiday period. The first two came with Phoenix Mercury before the two parties agreed to divorce the contract. The former MVP then signed with Storm as she continues to chase her first championship.

Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said the team tried to integrate Charles using her skills while also introducing her into the established system.

“It’s trying to integrate its strengths with where our shortcomings lie,” Quinn said. “And that is at the end of the attack, the scoring. Obviously we know she is a bucket and she is a prolific goalscorer in this league. We just do our best to bridge that gap in the way we play while making sure we put her in places for her to be successful.”

Washington held a pre-game farewell to retired Storm players Sue Bird and Brian Jan. A video montage showed Mystics and Thibault players talking about their memories of Bird – a 13-time All-Star, four-time champion and five-time Olympic gold medalist. Both received a package of DC-related items.