The Phoenix Mercury overcame a 15-point first-quarter hole to win 80-75 in a rough and tumble contest that clearly had playoff characteristics. After splitting a two-game road trip that includes a victory in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Mystics (15-11) will play the Minnesota Lynx when they return home on Sunday.
Late in the second quarter, when Natasha Cloud had to drag Hines-Allen to the other end of the court, the Footprint Center crowd erupted in cheers. She was closing in on a Cunningham three-point try, but there was no whistle despite some contact.
Game got physical
In a scene reminiscent of the notorious Allen Iverson-Ty Lue photo from the 2001 NBA Finals, Cunningham, who has a reputation in the league as an annoyance, collapsed to the ground, and Hines-Allen stepped over her.
The Mercury forward shoved Hines-Allen from the ground, and seconds later they were face to face, expressing their annoyance. Each of them received a technical foul.
At that point in the game, which had already seen a lot of tough play from both teams, the Mystics were leading by eight points. After taking a forearm from Diana Taurasi and collapsing to the floor, Ariel Atkins left the court and returned in the first quarter.
Lots of fouls and possible injuries
After being hit in the first quarter, Mercury forward Diamond DeShields collapsed, hobbled off the court, and disappeared. In the second quarter, Mercury Coach Vanessa Nygaard received a technical foul, and in the third quarter, Cloud received a flagrant 1 for pushing Skyler Diggins-Smith.
Late in the fourth quarter, Diggins-Smith and Elena Delle Donne received technical fouls.
The Mystics’ 15-point lead after the first quarter was down to only two (60-58) at the half, as it appeared that all the extracurricular activities had distracted them.
The Mystics failed to make easy shots against Phoenix’s zone defence as a result of the confusion. Phoenix simply made more plays while Washington scored just 30 points after the break, making the second half more of a test of which side could maintain composure.
After the first quarter, according to Hines-Allen, the Mystics’ defensive play was timid against the zone and inconsistent.
The match got more physical with time
Both teams struggled offensively as a result of the rough play, which caused several fouls and the extended game stops for video review. But the Mercury relied on Taurasi and Diggins-Smith, and they produced enough plays in the last frame to secure a victory.
While Diggins-Smith scored 24 points with 9 assists and 5 rebounds, Taurasi finished with 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. With 42.7 seconds left, Diggins-Smith made a pull-up three-pointer to give Phoenix a 77-70 advantage.
Delle Donne recorded her second double-double of the year by finishing with 19 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. Atkins scored 14 points in the game.
After the first quarter, the Mystics made just 14 of their first 51 field goal attempts, and Thibault was disappointed that Delle Donne didn’t receive more touches in the final frame.