WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Sparks are back on the road for the next week as we go into the last third of the 2023 WNBA season. They have played against every team in the league. Except one, that is.
The Washington Mystics (12-13) are meeting the Sparks (9-17) for a two-game series starting on Friday night. As mentioned, this is the only team the Sparks haven’t gone against yet.
The problem for the Mystics is that they, too, have been hit with a ton of injuries. You think of the Mystics, you think of Elena Delle Donne. But unfortunately, she hasn’t played in a month due to an ankle injury. Not only that but last year’s first round pick (3rd overall pick) Shakira Austin is also out because of a hip ailment. Ariel Atkins also has been out for a few weeks because of her own ankle injury and veteran Kristi Toliver, who has only played 8 games this season, has a foot injury.
This leaves Natasha Cloud and ex-Spark Brittney Sykes to take over the load. Cloud and Sykes are fiery, especially on the defensive end. D.C. also has forward Tianna Hawkins as well as guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough stepping up to the plate. Myisha Hines-Allen is more than capable (she was runner-up to Betnijah Laney for Most Improved Player in 2020). The Mystics also acquired Queen Egbo last month.
But like I said, injuries have really affected the Mystics. The good news is that their hurt players could make their way back soon and they can still make a serious run towards the postseason.
As for how to beat the Mystics? Well, the Mystics are a very good defensive team; we’ve seen firsthand how awesome Sykes is as a defender. They will make teams work as the Mystics are second in forcing turnovers.
But just like the Sparks, the Mystics are not a great rebounding team. In fact, D.C. is last in rebounding percentage and third worst in rebounds per game. So the Sparks have to get the 50-50 balls and outhustle them. This might not be the prettiest basketball game to watch; it’s going to be a lot of blue collar ball and falls aplenty in this match-up. The winner might be whichever team gets to 65 first.
Even though the Sparks have a lackluster record, they are still 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Sky for the 8th spot. So now is a good time as any to get on a little run here as they have two games against fellow injury-riddled Washington and a game against the Fever, who they’ve already defeated twice.
But first, Friday night. This is how we do it.